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Wednesday 08 April 2009

Blessed are the...Persecutors?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 24th January 2009

Gay US Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson
Gay US Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson was a speaker at Obama's inauguration last week. However, as a whole, global Anglicanism is still a communion in crisis.

While most of New Zealand Anglicanism is sane and liberal, the same cannot be said for Uganda and Nigeria.

However, Ugandan Anglicans aren't all vile fundamentalists. Former Ugandan Anglican Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo describes gay people as 'oppressed and marginalised.' This straight grandfather has seven children of his own, but he became chair of Integrity Uganda, which supports the rights and human dignity of Ugandan lesbians and gay men. Banned from Ugandan Anglican churches by current Archbishop Henry Orombi, Ssenyonjo has started the Charismatic Church of Uganda as an inclusive alternative. He comes strongly recommended by the saintly former South African Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, himself a strong voice for reason, compassion and inclusion.

Orombi has joined with other social conservative fundamentalist Christians, Muslims and Bahai in an (ironically named) "Interfaith Rainbow Coalition Against Homosexuality." This outfit harrasses progay journalists, and unfortunately has the support of current Ugandan fundamentalist President Yoweri Museveni, scurrilous Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper, and Cabinet "Minister for Ethics and Integrity" James Butero, also known for trying to ban miniskirts and a belief that decriminalising homosexuality would lead to sex with animals.

Fortunately, though, Ugandan journalists are known to criticise this perspective and continue to take risks and support media freedom in this context. The Sexual Minorities Uganda Group speaks up for the rights of Ugandan lesbians and gay men, and Silvia Tamale, a noted Ugandan feminist legal scholar, has published Homosexuality: Perspectives from Uganda (2007) to provide an alternative perspective to fundamentalist hijackers of the Ugandan "Anglican" Church.

Nigeria's Anglican Archbishop, Peter Akinola, needs no introduction to our readers. He has backed former Nigerian military dictator Olusegun Obasanjo's "Prohibition of Relationships Between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage By Them, and For Other Matters Connected Therewith Bill." Even though gay sex carries a fourteen year prison sentence in Nigeria, this draconian legislation provides five year sentences for entering into, performing or attending same-sex weddings, public support for LGBT rights, formation of pro-gay groups, production, circulation or broadcast of pro-gay media and publications, property sale and rental to Nigerian lesbians and gay men, provision of safe sex information and even freedom of association. Although North American and European opposition stalled it, current Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua is a Muslim social conservative from Northern Nigeria, which has sharia law.

Former Nigerian LGBT activist Davis Mac-Iyalla was forced to flee Nigeria for fear of his life, and members of his Changing Attitude Nigeria reformist organisation face harrassment and violence, as well as a Metropolitan Community Church in Nigeria and its minister.

One awaits New Zealand major parties' foreign affairs spokespersons statements on these matters with concern and interest.


Andrew Potts: "Hearts of Darkness:" DNA 108: January 2009: 42-46.

Craig Young - 24th January 2009