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)”.

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