April 14, 2014 at 11:09 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Pastor blames massive Chilean forest fire on civil unions bill
gay news, Washington Blade, Chile, Valparaíso

A Chilean pastor claims God sparked a massive forest fire in the city of Valparaíso on April 12 because of the country’s civil unions bill.

A Chilean pastor on Sunday said God sparked a massive forest fire in the coastal city of Valparaíso over the weekend because of a bill that would allow same-sex couples in the South American country to enter into civil unions.

Pastor Javier Soto posted two pictures of the blaze that ravaged several areas of the country’s third largest city on his Facebook page.

One picture contains the headline “the order is to put an ‘end’ to the civil unions bill” above a banner that reads “Chile is being punished.” A second post with the same image of the fire raging Valparaíso reads “The order is: Put an end to the civil unions bill. This will continue if the opposite is done.”

Soto, who is based in Viña del Mar, a resort city adjacent to Valparaíso, has repeatedly blasted members of the Chilean Senate who earlier this year voted to allow debate on the civil unions bill.

President Michelle Bachelet, who took office last month, is among those who support the measure.

Soto has also criticized Chilean LGBT rights advocates.

“Evangelical pastor Javier Soto confuses religious issues with civil and social matters, which we understand can exist in perfect harmony, provided they respect each other,” Juan Pablo Fuentealba Álvarez of the Chilean It Gets Better Foundation (Fundación Todo Mejora in Spanish) told the Washington Blade on Monday from Santiago, the South American country’s capital. “It is evident that the forest fires in the Valparaíso Region of Chile, as with any other natural catastrophe, have nothing to do with the legalization of marriage between people of the same sex. We call for an end to hate, which only leads to more discrimination and prejudices. We invite you to open our mind and our heart towards an inclusive society that celebrates diversity.”

Chilean officials say the fast-moving fire that broke out in the hills directly above Valparaíso on Saturday afternoon killed at least 11 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes. Firefighters continue to use helicopters and other equipment to fight hot spots around the city in which the country’s Congress is located.

The Organization for Transsexuals for the Dignity of Diversity is among the groups that have begun to collect clothing, non-perishable food and other items for the fire victims.

gay news, Washington Blade, Chile, Valparaíso

The Chilean city of Valparaíso in Jan. 2011. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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