Taiwan's gays pray for soul mates at 'Rabbit' temple
By Michael Gold
TAIPEI (Reuters) - A young man sporting a rainbow pendant stands before the altar of the Wei-ming temple on the outskirts of Taipei, holding aloft a football-sized box full of prayers written on pieces of paper.
A priest sets the box ablaze, reciting Taoist chants as it burns to ashes. Flames leap up in quick bursts, an apparent sign that the Rabbit God has received his adherent's petitions.
Wei-ming temple is a house of Taoist worship with a twist - almost all of its congregants are gay. The shrine, down a narrow alleyway in a bustling district of New Taipei City, is dedicated to a deity who has watched over homosexuals for four centuries.
"In Chinese history, 'rabbit' was a derogatory term for homosexuals," said Lu Wei-ming, who founded the temple in 2006, at a time gays were excluded from most religious ceremonies.
Lu, who has taken a vow of celibacy and declined to answer questions about his sexuality, said he wanted to create a welcoming environment for a flock that had long been ostracized.
"This was a group with no one to look after them, and I wanted to fill that void," said the 28-year-old priest, adding that Wei-ming is the world's only shrine for homosexuals.
Initiation over, Lu poured a small cup of rice wine on the smoldering ashes of the devotee's prayers.
"Rabbit God loves this kind of liquor," he said. Continued...