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Posts Tagged "Anti-Gay law in Nigeria":

Send Not To Know For Whom The Bell Tolls


Protestors demonstrate against Nigeria's anti-gay law.‘A far-off country of which we know little’, was the shameful excuse of Chamberlain as to why Britain should not go to war with Germany over the invasion of Czechoslovakia. But we are no longer islands, entire of ourselves (if we ever were) thanks to modern mass communications.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock without access to the internet  for the last week you will know that Nigeria has just passed a law which:

outlaws “gay clubs, societies and organizations, their sustenance, processions and meetings,” or anyone who helps them, imposing jail time of up to 10 years for offenders.

Homosexual acts were already illegal in Nigeria, but the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act… means ...anyone married to someone of the same sex can get up to 14 years. The law was met with condemnation from the United States, Britain and Canada, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying it “dangerously restricts freedom” of expression and association of all Nigerians. And UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said: “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.”

And what crime is it that is being targeted? What canon of jurisprudence is offended?  As A E Housman wrote bitterly (but, as he thought, satirically):

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

'Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;
In the good old time 'twas hanging for the colour that it is;
Though hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair
For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.


In the face of this offence against natural justice, Christians will ask what the Anglican Church in Nigeria has to say. After all, even if you accept that homosexual physicality is a sin (which most of us don’t), Christ was happy to sup with all. The depressing answer is:

Aloysius Agbo, the Anglican Bishop of Nsukka said Tuesday, “Every Christian in Nigeria is happy about the development … especially when he did that contrary to the pressure from the western world.” Being gay is “unnatural, unwise and ungodly,” he said. “If our forefathers have done that [same-sex marriage], many of us would not have been born.” On Monday, the Presbyterian Prelate Emele Mba Uka also praised the new law. “Homosexuality as one of the greatest human deviant behaviours has been with man from earliest times. Man has fought it for a long time but it refuses to die,” he said. Uka equated gay sex with “incest, rape and adultery” and said that such a “perverse sexual lifestyles attract God’s punishment” which is “hell.”


And what has the Anglican Communion to say on the subject, in particular the Archbishops of Canterbury and York? Nothing. Nothing at all. Pin-drop silence.

Now, Nigerian Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ. So it behoves us to allow for their interpretation of Christianity to differ from ours. BUT the Nigerians apparently do not play by the same rules, they feel perfectly self-righteous in creating a civil law to make it illegal to, as it were, have red hair, and despise those who disagree with this interpretation of the words of Our Lord.

1,101 people have signed a petition asking our Church leaders to give a lead, and make it clear that this legislation does not conform with Christianity. There has been no statement from Cantuar or Ebor. It is possible that we are running into the same problems that Cantuar had over the Anglican Covenant (in which there was a strong undercurrent of anti-LGBTQ attitudes). A liberal, ‘bien-pensant’ Westerner finds it very difficult to take issue with someone who is black: it is a problem of inverted racism.  And in the case of Archbishop Justin, this is doubly hard because he has spent so much time in Nigeria, and his experiences when captured led, in part, to his work in reconciliation. He is in a genuinely difficult position.

But ++Justin has asked members of the Church of England to undertake a concerted programme of ‘conscious evangelism’. Sorry, but I doubt that I am alone in lacking enthusiasm for this task at a time when our Church refuses to stand up for our Christian beliefs.



Savi Hensman has written a clear-headed and incisive piece for Ekklesia about the situation which I urge you to read. She says:

In this context, some overseas religious leaders may fear that anything they say may be twisted to try to show that local defenders of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights are following a western agenda, hence making matters worse. However silence allows untruths to take hold, including the notion that God is on the side of those who hurt and vilify those made in the Divine image.

Truth is of vital importance in the New Testament (e.g. John 8). No human can be confident that he or she knows the whole truth. But sharing what one knows or believes to be true on important matters, and listening to others’ responses in order to adjust or build on this, can help to create a world where destructive forms of untruth are exposed.

Church leaders could perhaps point out that human rights are by no means a purely western concept – indeed the United Nations and international human rights organisations criticise European and North American as well as other governments when they act in cruel and unjust ways. In this interconnected world, not challenging injustice in another country may result in bolstering the power and prestige of those mistreating others. This is not about ‘the West’ standing in judgement but Christians everywhere being ready to come to the aid of the needy and oppressed.

How did Niemoller’s poem go again?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Photograph courtesy of LGBTQ Nation

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