Dear Archbishops Justin and John,
As you will know, Nigeria has just enacted some of the most extreme anti-gay laws on the planet. The Church of Nigeria, in particular retired Archbishop Akinola, has been supporting the bill for many years, and only last year the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese, Asaba, Justus Mogekwu, appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to assent to the anti-gay marriage bill. As Anglicans [and fellow Christians of other traditions], we call on both of you to oppose these laws, publicly and privately, in word and deed.
The new Nigerian laws include the following draconian provisions:
* Up to 14 years in jail for people in same-sex relationships
* Up to 10 years for anyone who ‘directly or indirectly’ shows same-sex affection in public.
* Up to 10 years in jail for anyone who participates in an organisation which works to protect gay rights, including straight allies. This could criminalise human rights defenders and even two people just meeting for a coffee if they are known to be gay or bisexual.
The situation is urgent. Sweeping arrests of gay people are already taking place in some parts of the country. A man in Bauchi has already endured 20 lashes, ordered by a court, for ‘homosexual offences’.
Anglicans have different points of view on whether it is morally acceptable to enter a sexual relationship with somebody of the same gender. But surely we can all agree that nobody should be locked up because of who they love and nobody should be locked up for organising against an unjust law?
Even the hardline Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference committed the Anglican Communion to opposing ‘irrational fear of homosexuals’. It is time for that opposition to take the form of concrete action.
In the Gospels, Christ tells us that whatever we do for the least of His brothers and sisters, we do for Him. He also says that whatever we ask the Father in His name will be granted. We believe that your influence can limit the degree to which these laws are implemented and can help prevent their spread to other parts of Africa.
Remaining silent means turning a blind eye as some of the most vulnerable people on the planet are imprisoned or flogged. It also risks destroying the credibility of Christianity in England and many other parts of the world where homophobia is considered scandalous.