A Step Forward in the West and 2 Steps Backward in Africa

June 7, 2008

http://www.pridelondon.org/blog.php?b=1214

 

Last year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit several Prides inthe US; The first ones I had ever been to. It was a revelation to me. I wasoverwhelmed by the sense of freedom among such huge crowds of people, andthe sense of security people had in their sense of identity about who theywere. Until I had seen such a situation with my own eyes and experienced thefeeling of the crowd I could not quite really believe it was some how completely true. Sometimes our imaginations are not enough to get a clearidea of the goal when we are fighting for something that deep down webelieve is a just situation – sometimes even a brief experience of is the only way to really crystallise and get clear in our minds exactly what we are fighting for.

As the leader of Changing Attitude Nigeria, the Nigerian branch of the Anglican pressure group campaigning for full inclusion of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion, I was in the US primarily to attend a conference. After Pride, back in my hotel room when I thought of the contrast with thesituation facing gay people back home in Nigeria, I cried. Would such athing ever be possible in my own country, in my lifetime?

What I had just experienced highlighted to me just how far away many countries in Africa arefrom those basic human freedoms to be who you are. Those who have followedthe international battle for gay rights may have known that in 2006 afterthe first public meeting for gay Christians in Nigeria, the atmosphere became much more openly hostile against gay people. It seems that the further forward the freedoms that LGBT people have won in the west, the further backwards Africa has become. Only South Africa is the notable exception, and there it is apparent that, whereas in many countriesoften the public attitude is ahead of the law, in South Africa the law is ahead of the public attitude – there is still a lot of public hostility to LGBT people, especially the further away from large cities you go.

In Africa there has been a wide spread tendency of leaders to manipulate often-superstitious populations by using fear of some minority group tostrengthen their own grip on power. We often think of this being political leaders, but religious leaders do just the same thing sometimes. And since when has religion been entirely divorced from politics anyway?

Most people will be aware that Nigerian Archbishop Akinola is rabble-rousing as many Anglican bishops as he can against even listening to LGBT people. Do notmistake this as being what he claims it is – a purely ‘moral’ crusade. This is a bid for power of a break-away church. But there are plenty of religiousleaders whose own distorted interpretation of the message of Christ arewilling for LGBT people to be slaughtered in the same manner as in Rwanda, if only all homosexuals could easily be identified and rounded up. The language they use is stirring up the less savoury elements of society inmany parts of Africa, and there are African political leaders who arewilling to utilise that to deflect attention from their own failings too.

As a result LGBT people are increasingly being regarded as easy prey. In the last couple of months both I and one of my closest friends and colleagues in Changing Atttitude Nigeria were viciously attacked. Even Colin Coward, the leader of Changing Atttitude in the UK, has received death threats fromreligious fanatics for his support of LGBT people in Africa.

I am privileged and fortunate to be able to attend and enjoy Pride in the UK this year. I hope you enjoy it too. And afterwards please keep an eye on the plight of LGBT people in other parts of the world, Africa included, where the freedoms we will enjoy at Pride in the UK are exchanged for the constant fear of attack else where. And I urge all my fellow Nigerians in the UK to come to Pride en masse, to share our stories, and band together, to campaign, apply pressure, and do what we can for our suffering brothers and sisters in our home countries.


Archbishop Akinola’s open letter to his fellow primates – a challenge from Changing Attitude Nigeria.

November 9, 2007

Archbishop Akinola’s open letter to his fellow primates – a challenge from Changing Attitude Nigeria

Peter Akinola likens the present situation in the Anglican Communion to the occasion when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Cathedral in Wittenburg. Archbishop Akinola helpfully reminds us that, among other things, Luther was asserting that the TRUTH of the gospel must always take precedence over the structures of the church.

For once, how much Changing Attitude Nigeria is in agreement with Archbishop Akinola! In particular we are sure Archbishop Akinola will rejoice at us reminding him of No. 90 of the 95, where Martin Luther asserted that,

To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy”.

Let us remember that in 1998 at the last Lambeth conference, all the bishops including those representing the Anglican Church in Nigeria committed to Lambeth resolution 1.10. Among other things, this included The Listening Process to listen to the experiences as well as the spiritual and theological arguments of gay and lesbian Anglicans. Instead Archbishop Akinola encouraged the government to introduce legislation to oppress us further. Can Archbishop Akinola please explain how that is compliant with Lambeth Resolution 1.10, and how his behaviour is so different from Martin Luther’s 90th thesis?

It is not just the pastoral and spiritual well-being of gay and lesbian Nigerians that are being totally neglected by the Anglican church of Nigeria, despite his responsibilities in that area. Both gay and straight Nigerians were astonished during the historic recent elections in Nigeria – the first time in Nigeria’s turbulent history when one democratically elected civil government elected by the whole of the Nigerian people, was going to be replaced by another. Instead of making his presence felt with his guiding hand in that tense and difficult period, when Nigerians were often greatly in need of spiritual guidance, Archbishop Akinola had left the country to install Bishop Martyn Minns. Now, this could have waited. It may have been important in the long run, but – really, was it that urgent, that Archbishop Akinola’s own constituency had to be abandoned at the time of great need in favour of something that could easily have waited a few weeks? Are souls in America more important than souls in Nigeria?

Among our well-researched arguments, that many Anglicans are coming to realise, are that historically, the powers of the church itself distorted the truth of the gospel from its original meaning and both interpreted and translated it to oppress gay people and women instead of including us as equals. It is Archbishop Akinola who wants to maintain that corruption rather than seek to establish the genuine truth in its original meaning. Therefore he is himself guilty of the accusations that Martin Luther aimed at the church so long ago.

Archbishop Akinola disingenuously uses the phrase ‘other Godly bishops’, as if those who disagree with his point of view are necessarily ungodly. This is an insulting and arrogant way to refer to bishops who are genuinely seeking biblical truth through prayer, listening to the experiences of those who the church currently condemns, and close re-examination of scripture in the original languages. He seems to imply that no change to the current doctrine is possible, yet a mortal community such as the Anglican Communion can and does make grave mistakes. It is an honourable organisation that is willing to question itself and acknowledge its errors. If the Anglican Communion had followed Archbishop Akinola’s approach, it would never have relented on its endorsement of slavery that was previously based on an overly-simplistic interpretation of scripture and disregard of other people’s experiences.

Changing Attitude Nigeria insists that the same approach to re-examination of the church’s attitude to slavery – that we are sure Akinola would have approved of – must be applied to the debate around the acceptance of committed Christians, who are faithful and committed members of the Anglican Church, who were born destined to be attracted to the same sex. Therefore there is no justifiable reason for the Lambeth conference not to go ahead as planned, and for all the bishops all over the world including those from the global south group to attend.

Changing Attitude Nigeria calls on all committed Anglicans, including primates and bishops, to prayerfully seek ways to resolve the present dispute in the Anglican Communion, recognising that we are all striving to achieve the same objective – to understand God’s will and how to apply it in Christian faith.

Davis Mac-Iyalla

Director, Changing Attitude Nigeria

davis@nigeria.changingattitude.org
+2289937680


world pride power conference 2008

September 24, 2007

http://www.worldprideandpower.com/WPPC2008/Speakers.htmlFebruary 21-24, 2008 Torrance, California


Photos of Feast of Love

June 2, 2007

Nigerian LGBT Anglicans share communion for the first time.


Esther message to Changing Attitude Nigeria

April 7, 2007

Dear friends, It is Easter weekend and tomorrow we celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, risen from the tomb to bring to us the new life in God which is his gift of love and truth. This Holy Week and Good Friday many of you will have followed Jesus from his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with the crowds praising him to his betrayal y Judas, his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane and his trial by Pontius Pilate, abandoned by his friends and followers. This Lent has been a hard time for us, with the Nigerian Government pushed by Archbishop Akinola and our Church to support the bill attacking LGBT people and threatening to withdraw our rights and try to silence us and make us invisible.

This Easter weekend we need to be full of hope and patience whatever is happening in our church and in the Government. The bill has still not been passed into law and we continue to pray and hope and work for its destruction. We will not be sure that we have succeeded in destroying the bill until the election is over and the new Government takes its place. CAN has worked hard with support from many other African and international human rights organisations to alert the world to the dangers of this bill and the threat to us in Nigeria. This has been a great gift despite the dangers, because many people around the world have become more aware of us, of our trials as LGBT Nigerians, and of the need for the World to take action against inhuman and unchristian actions against us.

Despite the fears and trials we have suffered, our God is glorious and victorious and victory is ours once again on this Easter Day 2007. Christ is risen indeed, and CAN members and supporters need to be glad that God is taking us to even greater levels of faith and commitment even in the midst of the hard times we are living through. The Nigerian election is important for all of us. The outcome of the election will decide the way we are going to be governed and the policy of the future. We have an opportunity to make our voice heard when we cast our votes. CAN members and their supporters should think very well before they vote for anyone and make sure you are voting for the best candidate who will oppose corruption and maintain the civil rights of us all. We are making plans for the leaders meeting in May. This will be the first time we have met together as leaders since 2005. So much has happened since then, CAN has grown and matured, the Anglican Communion has presented us with new challenges but also with opportunities to make our voices heard. We are known around the world. We have challenged the idea that homosexuality doesn’t exist in Africa.

We have shown as a lie the idea that the Church of Nigeria doesn’t have LGBT members. The world knows we are faithful Anglicans offering our ministry and worship in our churches across the country. The leaders meeting will be a time for reflection and planning for the future. We can gain strength from each other as we talk of our hopes, share worship and prayer together and meet our Lord Jesus in fellowship and love. We need to continue to work together, united by our faith in God and one in our life in the Lord Jesus. Together, we can move forward from this glorious day of resurrection to build a new kingdom in Nigeria, a Kingdom where God’s blessing is poured out on all his people, heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered.

We will need all our resources to build our strength and work for our security and visibility. God is calling us to tell the truth about ourselves to the world. God is faithful and he will never abandon us. May the risen Christ pour his love and glory on us all this holy season of Easter.


Nigerian Anglican activist warns of new Exodus

March 18, 2007

The Nigerian branch of the Anglican Church pressure group on LGBT rights, Changing Attitudes Nigeria (CAN), is warning other countries that the passing of the anti-gay marriage bill could cause significant problems for them too. The restrictions in the bill are so draconian and oppressive that it could result in a potential flood of gay Nigerians fleeing to other countries. The main targets would be other countries that Nigerians often travel to, such as Britain.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, the head of Changing Attitude Nigeria, says that “Already we are seeing an increase in homophobic behaviour and attacks, because people feel they can get away with it. The climate is already becoming intolerable. Unless the government tones down its language and cancels the bill, we are going to see a flood of refugees as people flee for their lives”. Over the last few months, since the bill has been proposed, Davis Mac-Iyalla has already received a series of death threats regarded as credible and has been forced to go in to hiding.

“We are already getting reports of an increase in attacks on people who are merely suspected of being gay – people who are not even being ‘caught in the act’. This climate of fear will simply drive many people to take desperate measures to find somewhere – anywhere – where they can at least live without imminent fear of death just for existing. For many people, even being the prospect of being an illegal immigrant in Britain will seem preferable to a life of perpetual terror and suffocating oppression in Nigeria.”

CAN has already received a report of an increasing number of Nigerians seeking English partners on gay dating websites in recent months as gay Nigerians try to seek safe passage out of the country.

The population of Nigeria is approximately 117million, and if figures from other countries are comparable, approximately 6.5% of the population is conservatively estimated to be gay. This means that the population of Nigeria that is coming under increasing threat is approximately 760,000. “If only a fraction of those sought sanctuary elsewhere, that would still create a headache for countries that Nigerians would naturally flee to”, said Davis.

He added, “Some of the oldest passages in the Bible – Exodus – remind us that when people come under intense oppression in one land, a natural response is to flee to somewhere more hospitable.” The ancient Egyptians were severely punished by God for treating so brutally inhabitants in their land. The torment the Egyptians received for their oppression is well documented in the Bible.

He also warned that countries should not close their doors to people seeking shelter from extreme persecution. “Neither those who create the oppression in the first place nor those who close their doors are well regarded by God.” He challenged the notion that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was about the sins of homosexuality, saying, “Most Biblical scholars who have studied the Old Testament in its original Hebrew – and not the often corruptly-translated versions in other languages such as English – now recognise that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was nothing to do with homosexuality and a lot to do with lack of hospitality to strangers.

The often-quoted argument between Lot and the crowd in Sodom when Lot was trying to protect the visitors from a violent interrogation was the final straw that caused Sodom and Gomorrah to be burnt down to the ground. Jesus himself reminded us how importantly God regarded hospitality, telling his disciples that any town that was not hospitable to them would find the day of judgement tougher than Sodom and Gomorrah (Mathew 10:14-15)”.


Urgent appeal to the Primates of the Anglican Communion

February 14, 2007

Dear Primates,

The bill to ban same sex-relationships has been dormant for some time in the Nigerian House of Representatives. Due to recent pressure from Nigerian LGBT Rights Organizations and other international defenders of LGTBT Human Rights, the bill is going to be debated again tomorrow, 14 February, by the Nigerian law makers. This news arrived as Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, arrived in Dar Es Salaam to try and meet Archbishop Peter Akinola and other Primates to show the commitment of LGBT Nigerian Anglicans to their church.

If this bill is not stopped now it will make most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people illegal in their own country. With their families and friends and anyone they associate with, they will be immediately criminalized. Those arrested under the provision of the law will face a jail sentence of between 5 and 14 years. Some will be forced into exile by this repressive legislation. Any bishop or priest who befriends, baptises, confirms or welcomes an LGBT person into their church will also be guilty of a criminal offence.

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Archbishop Peter Akinola is at the moment in Tanzania meeting with the other Primates. He is a strong supporter of this bill which threatens the lives and security of tens of thousands of LGBT people in Nigeria.

We are appealing to the Primates in the name of God to add your voices to others who have been calling on the Nigerian Government to stop progress on this bill and withdraw it immediately. The bill will make it impossible for the Anglican Communion to engage in the listening process in Nigeria to which you, the Primates, have committed yourselves in Lambeth resolution 1.10 and the Windsor report. It discriminates against LGBT people. It criminalizes a group which the church claims to love and should in Christian charity be determined to protect from abuse and persecution.

Although the bill has not yet been passed into law, yet it has been implemented by many groups and individuals in Nigerian society. Davis Mac-Iyalla the director of CAN has himself received telephone calls and emails threatening to end his life and bathe him with acid. This is but just one example of the many threats LGBT people are facing in Nigeria as a result of the proposed bill, threats reported by members of CAN in their diocesan groups.

Issued on behalf of Changing Attitude Nigeria
Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director
White Sands Hotel, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania


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