Delegation lobbies against Nigerian venue for games

by
09 August 2007

by Pat Ashworth

A NIGERIAN BID to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Abuja should be rejected on the grounds of the country’s homophobic oppression of lesbian and gay Nigerians, a delegation told the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), Mike Hooper, on Friday. The CGF is due to make its decision in early November.

The delegation was led by Davis MacIyalla, founder and leader of Changing Attitude in Nigeria, who has been on a tour of the United States and the UK as part of the listening process recommended by the Windsor report. “Nigeria’s homophobic oppression is a violation of the Commonwealth Games ethos of equality, humanity, peace, unity, co-operation, and understanding,” Mr MacIyalla said. He expressed fears that Nigeria’s anti-gay Bill, which ran out of legislative time in the country’s parliament, would be revived.

Mr MacIyalla had done “a magnificent job in exposing the victimisation of gay people in Nigeria — a victimisation that is incited and endorsed by the Church of Nigeria and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who was part of the delegation, with the Revd Stephen Coles, Vicar of St Thomas’s, Finsbury Park, in London, and Mike Hersee of Changing Attitude Nigeria, co-author with Mr MacIyalla of a report to the CGF, Abuja’s Bid — Sins of Omission.

Bishop Akinola, a supporter of the Bill, made his views on sexual orientation clear in an interview on 29 July with the Nigeria Guardian newspaper. “In Lambeth Palace, we met as Primates, we could not share in the Lord’s Supper. It is that bad,” he told the paper.

“All we are saying is, look, you don’t have a monopoly of homosexuals in your community. They are in Africa, they are in Abuja here and everywhere, but we don’t celebrate it, for God’s sake. Our duty is to counsel people that are involved in it. To pray with them, guide and advise them until they will come back to their senses. Many who have this problem have been healed the world over. It is an acquired syndrome. But they say no, it is not an acquired syndrome, it is the way they are made. But we say no to that. God did not make a mistake in creation.”

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The Archbishop made his own view even more explicit in a piece written for the Kairos Journal in 2005. He declared on that occasion: “Homosexuality and lesbianism, like divorce, breeds a society of single parents which gives rise to a generation of bastards. And in the context of much poverty and lack of education, this further produces an ill-bred generation of hooligans, portending much terror to the peace and stability of the society.”

Rumours persist that Bishop Akinola intends to create a bishop to serve disaffected congregations in the Church of England. A front-page report in The Church of England Newspaper last week quoted a Nigerian cleric as saying that such a bishop “could be consecrated before next year’s Lambeth Conference if plans succeed”.

Such an appointment would mirror Bishop Akinola’s consecration of the Revd Martyn Minns to serve congregations in the United States belonging to the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). One report on the internet went so far as to suggest that Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream was the choice of the bishops of the Global South. In response, Canon Sugden, a canon of Jos Cathedral in Nigeria, told the Church Times on 17 July: “As far as I am concerned, I have no knowledge of any of this.”

The Church of Nigeria re-worded its constitution in 2005 to delete all former references to communion with the see of Canterbury. Enshrined in its new constitution is the freedom to “create chaplaincies of like-minded faithful outside of Nigeria and to appoint persons within or outside of Nigeria to administer them and the Primate shall give episcopal oversight”.

The Revd Richard Kirker, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), commented: “It would be perfectly consistent for Archbishop Akinola to start an English version of his Church, and, while I am saddened by his divisive intentions, there are some few who will find comfort under his brazenly homophobic creed.

“It has been clear for some time that under the guidance of Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney, the Nigerian Church has been distancing itself from the Church of England, and particularly the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

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