Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Meanwhile, in Nigeria... humans at risk

[I wrote most of this yesterday morning, but we’re in midterms here, midsemester grades are due tomorrow, and blogging time is scarce.]

Interesting. I was thinking of writing a post called “Why I am not talking about The Anglican Situation here.” Just in case you all were wondering. The short answer is that there are plenty of other folks doing this quite well and the blogosphere is already full. So full in fact, that while I am grateful for the insights of many others (I list some of my favorites in the column at the right under “Blogging Anglicans”) I sometimes weary of our Episcopal and Anglican navel-gazing. If and when I do speak about the whole situation, it will be because a) I have something new and different to say (most likely from perspectives that aren’t out there – I note a dearth of ecumenical and feminist contributions, insights, and analysis) and/or b) I feel compelled, ethically or otherwise, to repeat here what others are also saying elsewhere, in the interests of communication to as broad a public as possible.

Enough on that.

Meanwhile, a more pressing concern, and one not unrelated to The Current Unpleasantness, has arisen and showed up in several messages in my inbox. In this situation, the safety and well-being of other humans are at stake. (Hmm. I thought of this blog initially as a place for some theological and spiritual reflections, and I see now that as in my theology and prayer, this cannot be separated from the real lives of real persons –and other sentient beings—who suffer in real social situations, nor can it be separated from social analysis or invitations to action. Not that I ever thought of all this as separate – I certainly don’t in my theological writings or in my teaching or justice work –but I’m noticing how this space is evolving even in this start-up phase. This post today is one more incarnation of my ongoing concern –dating back to college and then to sojourns at Taizé— about the intimate relationship between contemplation and action.)

Note this, search your conscience, and act. The Nigerian Senate is considering a bill, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, that would criminalize all activities related to homosexuality—from private consensual behavior to speech, assembly, and commitment ceremonies. It appears that the bill will be brought up for a final vote in the Senate on Thursday, March 1st. The bill has already passed the Nigerian House.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, a courageous gay man from Nigeria who was present at the recent Anglican Primates’ meeting in Tanzania and is a leader in Changing Attitude Nigeria, has written contacts in the U.S. to ask for help. Here are two concrete things you can do.

1) Send an e-mail to Archbishop Peter Akinola ( (yes, that Peter Akinola) asking him to use his considerable influence with the Senate to defeat the bill. Remind him that paragraph 146 of the Windsor Report states that, "any demonising of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care." Keep it courteous and to the point.

2) Call the Nigerian Embassy (202-986-8400) in Washington, DC, to express your concerns about the bill. Remind embassy staff that Nigeria is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (brought to you by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which guarantees freedom from unfair discrimination and the right to privacy. Parts of the act are also inconsistent with the principle of non-discrimination found in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Nigerian Constitution.

Some perspectives from much closer to the situation than we are here are here and here.

Integrity, the Episcopal lgbt organization, has been working with Human Rights Watchand the Human Rights Campaign on other ways to defeat the bill. IGLHRC is also an excellent resource. (If you don’t know this organization, I recommend you have a look at their website. Just click the live link on their name in the last sentence. I first learned of them when a classmate of mine at the GTU got a job with them at least a decade ago.)

For a copy of the bill, see this site, which also has stories from Nigerians who have experienced discrimination as a result of their sexual orientation.

If you are moved to call and write, please do so ASAP. The Nigerian Senate vote is tomorrow, March 1.

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