A PRIEST and psychotherapist living in self-imposed exile in London because of violent homophobia in his native Latvia has spoken about finding sanctuary in the West End.
Maris Sants, who works in a coffee house in Winnett Street, Soho, was excommunicated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia in 2002 because of his sexuality, and his case was highlighted by Amnesty International after he was attacked by anti-gay thugs.
In the years after he came out as gay, the 45-year-old found himself the focus of much attention in the media.
People came from far and wide to congregate outside the church in Riga where he officiated but instead of listening to his sermons the skinhead visitors held placards condemning homosexuality.
Some even threw excrement or violently attacked him, abuse which caused Mr Sants to emigrate to London.
The Metropolitan Police recently reported an increase in homophobic attacks in the West End. Appalling recent incidents include one in April when gay socialite Philip Sallon was beaten in the street near Piccadilly Circus in the early hours and Soho recently became the focus of a media frenzy after a gay couple claimed they were asked to leave a pub when someone objected to them kissing.
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