Friday, January 30, 2009

Interview with Professor Anene Ejikeme on Homosexuality in Nigeria

Anene Ejikeme is an Assistant Professor of African History at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. She did her dissertation work on the history of Catholic women in Onitsha, an important market town in Nigeria. She is interested in religion and religious identities. She herself attended a Catholic convent school for girls in Nigeria.

How did you get interested in the subject of homosexuality in Nigeria?
I’ve always been interested in religion. I did my dissertation on Catholic women, so I had a research interest in religion. In Nigeria, there are a lot of new religions—especially new evangelical churches. So when I heard about a new church with an openly homosexual pastor I was completely surprised. Nigeria is a pretty homophobic country. When I spoke to people in Nigeria, almost no one had heard about this group. Although some people clearly knew about it, that’s how I heard about it, none of my contacts in the media, my friends, or my family had heard about this church. In the end I was able to find the group and the head of the church, by doing a simple online search. So I contacted the head of the church, Reverend Jide, and asked if I could meet with him and his church members. He sent me his contact information, and we communicated by telephone and email.

How is homosexuality generally viewed in Nigeria?
People have the perception that homosexuality is a foreign import. The people who speak about it speak out against it. That’s what you read in the media. That’s the public position. But what intrigued me about these statements is that the people who speak out against homosexuality self-identify as Muslims or Christians or are leaders of those communities. I find it interesting that those who speak out against what they see as a foreign import are themselves proponents of foreign imports—since both Christianity and Islam are foreign to Nigeria.

The homophobia in Nigeria is quite widespread. In the South, which where I’m from, it is often seen as something brought by foreigners, by Europeans, but it is also seen as something that Muslims do—something that is alien. This is especially true in the Southeast, which is largely Christian. Leaders of the church say homosexuality is un-African. Of course, there is a certain irony to that since Christianity is also foreign. They see Christianity as the truth, so it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

In Nigeria I would say most homosexuals are not out. Certainly that was the case with the people I met. I think people are afraid. A handful of them were out. I was actually really surprised to find some who were quite flamboyant—they had arrived at church dressed very colorfully.

Tell us about the Reverend and what he did in this town?
The reverend comes from a very well known and distinguished family. They are known as nationalist and religious leaders—a bit like saying the name “Bush” in America. Rev. Jide’s own father is a minister. Reverend Jide was married, had children and was living the life of a minister in London. Then it came out that he had had a relationship with a man. He was publicly outed, kicked out of his church, his marriage dissolved and he became depressed and suicidal. His relationship with his father is very complicated. All of this happened in London. This is someone, you have to understand, who grew up not just in the church but as a child of a minister. It was devastating.

One day, he was invited to an inclusive church, I believe, by South African friends. Here was an entirely different church—his own church had rejected him and here was a church that welcomed him… and welcomed everybody. Eventually, he was accepted into this church. They accepted his ordination and recognized him as a pastor. He joined that church for some time and then decided to return to Nigeria to open a church, believing that he could be of service to many people, knowing there must be many people like him (i.e., homosexuals,) undoubtedly, who had no one to minister to them. So he went to Nigeria and started a church: The Church of Rainbow, which was affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC). The Church of Rainbow was based in Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria.

Tell us about the Church itself.
The church services were held once every two weeks in a space they rented from a local hotel. They didn’t have the money to buy or construct a building of their own, which was a function of their limited resources. They simply couldn’t afford to meet every week because they couldn’t afford to rent the hall that often. I was able to speak with the workers at the hotel. That was quite interesting. It was clear that they did not approve of this kind of church. But they were paying customers and the hotel welcomed the income. The staff was very unhelpful whenever there was a problem. Reverend Jide and some of his close associates were afraid they would soon be losing that space. Indeed this was not the first space they rented or that they had lost, either because of cost or bigotry. It is part of the harassment; you pay your money and are still unwelcome. At the same time, I understand the position of the hotel. Clearly, the presence of the church service, with the 60 or so people who look a bit different, exposes the hotel to attack as well.

When I was visited, there was only one other woman and the rest of the congregants were men. They came from far and wide. Most people came from Lagos but some people came from farther afield in Nigeria. What I found was the atmosphere was very joyous. I spoke to several of the church members afterward. Once every two weeks, was for all of them, a major event on their calendars. There were no heterosexual men at this service, but the sole woman was straight. When I asked her why she chose to attend this church, she told me that she had been to several others but that this was the church were she felt happiest. At this particular church, the talk was all about love. In other churches she visited and even joined, the pastors were all talking about hell.

What did you learn about the problems faced by members of the church?
At the church, I interviewed a number of people who had been attacked. The attacks could be verbal or physical. In addition, many people had been kicked out of their homes by parents, although not all. I recall one church member who said his mother was very supportive of him, but most of the stories were not like that. I remember the story of one violent attack quite vividly. A young man at the church explained that he had been attacked at a university. The assault was so brutal he had to be hospitalized. He was just visiting the university. He didn’t know anyone and had just arrived in town. A group of boys yelled homophobic epithets at him. He didn’t’ know how they identified him, but they beat him up and took all his money. They just left him there, on the street. Fortunately, a young woman saw him, took him hospital and gave him some money so he could return home.

The government itself is very homophobic and has tried to pass laws to criminalize homosexuality. There are no national statistics on the subject. So the attacks that I know about are those that make it into the media. Rev. Jide raises money for the legal defense of people who have been sent to jail for such things as impersonating a woman, for conducting a same-sex marriage or other such charges. Of course, he’s not the only person working in this area. There are others. There are no clear records in Nigeria of assaults on homosexuals. Whatever is known is recorded by individuals and groups. It is not at all systematic. It’s difficult to get good statistics on anything in Nigeria, not just anti-homosexual attacks.

What happened to the church ultimately?
They are not meeting regularly right now. Rev. Jide had to flee because they were outed in the newspapers. Once that happened, several individuals from the congregation were attacked and they had to stop meeting. Reverend Jide is one person who had spoken out publicly against a law proposed to criminalize homosexuality and other issues concerning gays in Nigeria. He is now in the UK and maintains a very active presence on the Internet.

What effect did this church have on the community?
This is a civil rights issue for them. I believe that for Rev Jide and some of his members the aim was always two-fold: to provide services and a community to those who are isolated and to get people talking about these issues more openly. I think they definitely saw the mission of this church as a part of a struggle for civil rights.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Dream Dinner Party by Joseph Benjamin Reaves

My Dream Dinner Party By Joseph Benjamin Reaves

I would love to have all these people over to eat, talk, and communicate across our differences and similarities. These are people that inspire me, lift me up, love me, make me smile, give me something to aspire to, make me want to be like them etc. etc. etc. For those that have been tagged you're in this note and on this list because I think you're an amazing and dope individual and this is my thank you. Where you are on the list is not a signifier of how important you are to me. So comment on the note and let me know what you think would happen at this dinner with all these diverse folk and what would you do as a guest, who would you talk to and what would you ask?

1. Jesus Christ - Son of GOD2. Patricia and Maxie Reaves - Mommy and Daddy3. Mabel C. Washington - Maternal Grandmother4. Marvin Gaye - Prolific and Prophetic Singer and Poet5. Dr. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale - Founders of The Black Panther Party for Self- Defense Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale - Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, Georgia6. Rev. Richard Allen - Preacher, Founder of the AME Church7. Bishop G.E. Patterson - Former Presiding Bishop of the Church of God In Christ, called "The Black Pope"8. Rev. Charles Angel - Black Gay Reverend, and AIDS Activist, Founder of Gay Men of African Descent9. Marcus Garvey - Pan-Africanist, Revolutionary10. Jared Schuler - Black Gay Blogger

11. Bishop Charles H. Mason - Preacher, Founder of the Church of God In Christ12. Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor - Pastor Emeritus, Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, New York. "The Dean of Black Preaching", Distinguished Gentleman of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated13. Jarena Lee - One of the first African American Female Preachers in the AME Church14. Rev. William J. Seymour - Preacher. On April 14, 1906 held the historic Azusa Street revival which gave birth to the modern day Pentecostal movement15. Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie - First Female Bishop in the AME Church16. Kirk Franklin - Gospel Artist17. Toyce Francis - Black Gay Blogger, Founder/CEO, Prodigal Sun Design, Distinguished Gentleman of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated18. Andre Antar Wright - Black Gay Blogger, Founder/CEO, Wrap Masters, Distinguished Gentleman of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated19. Derrick L. Briggs - Black Gay Blogger20. Adam Benjamin Irby - Black Gay Blogger

21. Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. - Preacher, Theologian, Civic Leader. Noble Lord of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated22. Shelton Jackson Lee - Filmmaker. Extra Cookie Points if you know his stage name23. Barbara Smith - Black Lesbian Feminist24. W.E.B. DuBois - Intellectual, Philosopher, and Author. Noble Lord of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated25. Tupac Amaru Shakur - Hip Hop Artist, Poet, and Actor26. Archbishop Desmond Tutu - South African Priest and Humanitarian27. Robert Nesta Marley - Prophetic Reggae Artist28. Zora Neale Hurston - Writer, Soror of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated29. Talib Kweli - MC30. Harriet Tubman - Abolitionist

31. Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery - Preacher, President Emeritus, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.32. Sean Bell - 25-year old African American Man killed by New York Police Department. Shot at fifty Times33. Simon Nkoli - Openly Gay South African HIV/AIDS Activist, Anti-Apartheid Activist, and Freedom Fighter34. Essex Hemphill - Black Gay Poet and HIV/AIDS Activist35. Rev. Stacey Latimer- Black Openly Gay Minister, Unity Fellowship Christ Church, Brooklyn, New York. HIV/AIDS Activist, Founder/CEO, Love Alive Ministries.36. Steveland Morris - Singer, Songwriter. Cookie Points if you know his stage name37. Sylvester - Black Gay Disco Diva38. Thomas Glave - Jamaican-American Gay Activist, Professor, and Writer 39. Rev. Rowland Jide Macaulay - Gay Nigerian Minister. Founded the first church for LGBT Africans in Nigeria. 40. Pat Parker - Black Lesbian Feminist Poet and Activist

41. Paul Robeson - Renaissance Man. Noble Lord of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated42. President Barack Hussein Obama Jr. - First African American President of USA43. Rashawn Brazell - 20 year old Black Gay Man murdered in Brooklyn, New York in 200544. Saneesha Stewart - Black Transgendered Woman murdered in her apartment45. Richard Bruce Nugent - Black Gay Writer of the Harlem Renaissance46. K. Monet Rice - Minister, Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, New York. My Big Sister In Christ.47. David and Candace Simpson - Brother/Sister Duo secretly scheming to take over the world. My little brother and sister in Christ48. Pastor Roger E. Hayes - Openly Gay Pentecostal Preacher. Pastor, Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship, Winston-Salem, North Carolina49. Rev. Samuel Phillips - Big Brother In Christ. Pastor, Concord Baptist Church of Christ. Brookyln, New York. Brother of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated.50. Rev. Jevon Caldwell-Gross - Big Brother In Christ. Pastor, Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, New York.

51. Shahara C. Jackson - Big Sister In Christ. Baddest Schoolteacher in Brooklyn. Soror of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated52. Wanda Leftwich Branch - Auntie In Christ.53. Rev. Otis Moss III - Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ54. Pancho Duncansen - 20 year old Black Gay Man stabbed to death in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn55. Elaine Brown - High ranking female within the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense56. Rev. Irene Monroe - African American Lesbian Minister and Theologian57. Dr. Mattie Moss-Clark - Gospel Legend and Choir Director. President of the International Music Department of the Church of God In Christ for 25 years. Mother of The Clark Sisters58. Melvin Miller - African American Gay Minister and Theologian59. The Clark Sisters - Greatest Gospel Group of All Time60. Colleen Thompson - My Queer Big Sister

61. Susanna M. Hernandez - My Queer Big Sister62. Mo Beasley - Poet, Educator, Dope Brother63. Steven G. Fullwood- Curator, Black Gay and Lesbian Archives @ Schomburg. Black Queer Blogger, Writer.64. Kenyon Farrow - Black Queer Blogger, Writer, Activist65. Frank Leon Roberts - Black Queer Blogger, Intellectual, and Dr-To-Be.66. Alain Locke - Black Gay Philosopher. First Black Gay Rhodes scholar. Phi Beta Sigma67. Maurice Jamal - Black Gay Filmaker, Screenwriter, and Actor68. Tommie Smith and John Carlos - Brothers that threw up the black power fist during the star spangled banner at the 1968 olympics69. Larry Levan - Black Gay DJ, Paradise Garage70. Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. - Rapper. Cookie Points if you know his stage name

71. Lisa C. Moore - Black Lesbian Writer and Publisher, Redbone Press72. Pharrell Williams - Artist, Producer, Fashion Icon73. Rev. Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays - Preacher, Theologian, Former President of Morehouse College, Alpha Phi Alpha74. Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson - Preacher, Public Intellectual, Cultural critic, Author75. Langston Hughes - Black Gay Writer of the Harlem Renaissance. Bruh of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.76. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Alpha Phi Alpha77. Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene - My Nigerian Queer Dyke Big Sister78. L. Monique Wallace and Toi King - My Gay Mothers79. Rev Dr. Gary V. Simpson and Rev. Emma Jordan Simpson - Husband/Wife Team at the Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, New York

80. Monte J. Wolfe and Tim'm T West - Black Gay Performance Artists, Founders of Brave Soul Collective82. Pastor O.C. Allen III and First Gentleman Rashawn Burgess - Openly Gay Christian Couple at the head of The Vision Church of Atlanta, Georgia83. Howard Thurman - Mystic, Preacher, Theologian. First Dean of Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University84. DJ Grandmaster Flash - Founding Father of Hip-Hop Culture85. Horace l. Griffin - Black Gay Minister Theologian86. Joseph Beam - Black Gay Writer87. James Baldwin - Black Gay Writer88. James H. Cone - Theologian. Father of Black Liberation Theology89. Shawn Corey Carter - MC, Businessman, Has a Doctorate in Swag. Cookie Points if you know his stage name90. Kevin Powell - Hip Hop Intellectual, Alpha Phi Alpha

91. E. Lynn Harris - Black Gay Author. Noble Lord of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated92. Ejeris Dixon - Queer Big Sister. Coordinator, SOS Collective93. Ella Baker - Civil Rights activist94. Fannie Lou Hamer - Civil Rights Activist95. Fred Hampton - Freedom Fighter96. Frederick Douglass - abolitionist97. Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III - Pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, Alpha Phi Alpha98. Bry'nt - Openly Gay MC99. Lonnie Rashid Lynn - MC, Actor, Author. Cookie Points if you know his stage name100. Amadou Diallo - African Immigrant murdered by NYPD back in 1999

101. Bishop Yvette Flunder - African American Lesbian Minister102. Byron Hurt - Filmaker, Educator. Bruh of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity103. Shirley Chisolm - First Black Women to run for president104. Dr. Cornel West - Professor Intellectual, Alpha Phi Alpha105. DJ Kool Herc- Founding Father of Hip Hop106. Angela Davis - Freedom Fighter107. Kendal Brown - African American Gay Minister108. DJ Afrika Baambaataa - Founding Father of Hip Hop. Founder, Zulu Nation109. Muhammad Ali110. Ali Forney - Homeless LGBT Youth murdered in NYC111. Dr. Alvin Williams and Nigel Simon - Black Gay Christian Parents112. Assotto Saint - Black Gay Writer113. Bayard Rustin - Black Gay Civil Rights Activist114. Sonia Sanchez - Poet115. Mary Mcleod Bethune - Educator116. Carter G. Woodson -Father of African American Studies. Bruh of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated117. Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.- Pastor Emeritus, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois. Bruh of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.118. Sakia Gunn - Black Lesbian Teen Stabbed To Death 119. Audre Lorde - Black Lesbian Feminist120. Dr. David Malebranche - Black Gay Doctor

121. Shorty Roc - Black Gay MC122. Assata Shakur - Freedom Fighter123. Ida B. Wells - Anti Lynhcing Activist124. James Earl Hardy - Black Gay Author125. Sojourner Truth - Abolitionist and Preacher126. Rashid Darden - Black Gay author. Noble Lord of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nigeria; Representatives Vote Against Gay Marriage

Reps vote against gay marriage•
To enact law against same sex unionsFrom JAMES OJO, AbujaFriday, January 16, 2009
Photo: Sun News Publishing

More Stories on This Section
House of Representatives yesterday unanimously voted for outright ban of same sex marriage anywhere in the country, as the Bill “for an Act to prohibit marriage between persons of same gender, solemnisation of same and other matters related therewith” scaled through without any opposition.Sponsored by Hon. Mayor Eze, deputy chairman, House Committee on Steel, all the lawmakers who spoke in favour of the Bill demanded for an outright ban on such acts.Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman, House Committee on Diaspora, Hon. Igo Aguma, chairman, House Committee on Gas Resources, Hon. Aminu Shehu Shagari, chairman, House Committee on Steel, Hon, Chinyere Igwe, deputy chairman, House Committee on Human Rights and Tahir Monguno, all condemned such marriage, saying that it was immoral, against African tradition and God designs for human being.

Hon. Tahir, for instance, noted that the act depicts moral decadence in any given society and a digress from God’s purpose of creating marriage institution, stressing that such act as stated in both Islam and Christian religions remain ungodly act.For Hon. Igo Aguma, he argued that “it is against my faith to have same sex marriage. It is against our penal code to even engage in activities that are as quarrelsome as this between man and man, as well as women and women.“It is time for us at this point in time to think back and look at the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

The greatest means of transmitting this disease is through the act of ‘sodomy’. Young children are already victims of been lured into this cruel and unimaginable act. It is an act of perversion.”Also speaking in favour of the Bill, Hon. Dabiri-Erewa noted that the Bill was extensively considered at public hearing before the expiration of the last administration.She added that a public hearing had been organized to collate peoples’ views and opinion, adding that it was a general view that “the act should not be encouraged in Nigeria,” while calling for the reports of the public hearing to be a guide in the final decision of the House.

Speaker Oladimeji Bankole put the Bill to vote to be read for the second reading, it was carried and the Bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Justice and Women Affairs.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

House Of Rainbow on You Tube

Please Subscribe to our online video messaging and listen to life changing messages with Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay, founding Pastor of House of Rainbow Metropolitan Community Church Lagos Nigeria at com/HouseOfRainbow

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Important Announcement

Subject; Discussion on Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity in Nigeria.

Date; 18th March 2009,

Time; 4pm to 7pm.

Location To Be Announced

Contact Chibundu at, to find out more and register your interest to take part. Please pass on to your friends, allies and network.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Job Vacancy at TIP


The Independent Project For Equal Rights, (T.I.P) Lagos Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation that works to facilitate a non-discriminatory Nigerian society through empowerment, education and advocacy with its targeted population amongst the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender).T.I.P vision is to respect the rights of all its citizens (LGBT), ensuring everyone fully attains their fundamental human rights for a stronger and healthier nation. TIP is seeking for suitable applicants for the post of an Admin officer/Bookkeeper preferable a female between the ages of 18-25yrsl and it is not compulsory that the person must be part of the LGBT group but must have the knowledge of the group. TIP is situated at Lagos state. Find below the attached document of the job description for the post.

Application closes on 6th of February 2009.

For enquiry, please contact Dennis Akpona on 08067129144 or, Sewedo Akoro on 08054814432 or

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Cry Aloud to God by Rev. Pressley Sutherland

I Cry Aloud to God, Psalm 77:1-4, by Rev Pressley Sutherland
A prophetic exhortation about House Of Rainbow MCC Lagos Nigeria

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that I may be heard.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Sovereign;
In the night my hand is stretched out without wearying.
My soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints. Selah
You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak…
Psalm 77. 1-4

“Pastor Pressley, things are bad here…” Those were the words I had both expected and dreaded to hear from my friend Reverend Jide Macaulay. From the time he went home to Lagos, Nigeria to organise House of Rainbow Metropolitan Community Church, I had felt like a family member was in a combat zone. I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving as I listened to Jide’s voice. He was shaken, but physically unharmed. It transpired that Jide was in hiding and in need of refuge. Members of House of Rainbow had fled two by two throughout the city after receiving a tip that kill men and officers were on the way to their meeting place. They left in haste, leaving the space prepared for Sunday worship--a full cup for communion; a paten of bread for sharing.

House of Rainbow members have been the victims of an egregious and sustained media campaign exploiting their inclusiveness. Undercover reporters deceived the church by introducing themselves as members of the rainbow community seeking an affirming church. They were welcomed and loved by Jide and the congregation. In return for their kindness, these reporters secretly wrote and published a series of articles that were sensationalist and reckless. My colleague was referred to as ‘the so called’ Reverend, and incendiary language such as ‘evil’, ‘abomination’, ‘un-African’, ‘sodomite’ and ‘sign of the end times’ was used by pundits, bloggers and religious leaders to slander the good work of Jide and House of Rainbow. Photographs from birthday parties the reporters had attended were published, wrecking the lives of several young people, making them homeless and vulnerable to abusive attacks in the streets and markets of Lagos. The papers continued to be self-congratulatory, claiming they had closed House of Rainbow. Because my friend had to hide from their incited violence, they declared that his behaviour was an admission of guilt. These journalists published Rev. Jide’s home address (which was robbed that night), listed names of his family members, and began a public relations assault on his father’s Bible University, which has no formal links to House of Rainbow. Lives were nearly destroyed and vulnerable people are suffering. In a proudly Christian city, the opiate of self-righteousness took effect with disastrous results. Cry aloud, Body of Christ, this story is worth our tears and reflection.

Sometimes, in Christian cultures, it is as if the events recorded in the New Testament had never happened. People forget about the life-giving, graceful message of Christ. Instead, we revert to practicing a scapegoating piety where we think it pleases God to cast out people of different perspectives living in our communities. Minorities and disempowered people have traditionally born the brunt of such pious violence. Please hear me, my fellow spiritual travellers, the time for crucifixions is over. Crucifying lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inclusively minded people is a New Testament abomination for our time. Jesus unambiguously demonstrated that the era for casting out and stoning others is over. His crucifixion was to end all crucifixions, not create a church with blood on its hands.

When it is unsafe for our friends to cry aloud to God as the Psalmist does, we who can must lift our voices and cry along with them. There is an image in scripture of the people of God as Rachel, crying for her children with no one to comfort her. The harsh reality of religiously condoned violence and prejudice is that there have been times in every human rights struggle when local religion has suppressed the voices of those seeking dignity and freedom. It doesn’t have to be this way. Historically, local religion has also shown the capacity to stand bravely with visionaries and outcasts until the casting out ceases, whatever the cost. We could be living out the best of our spiritual heritage instead of the worst. In a post-crucifixion world, we are responsible for working out our life’s purpose with a belief in grace and an attitude of care and generosity. It is not our calling to be judge and jury of the worthiness of our neighbours who cause us no harm. Christ’s harshest criticism was of those who would condemn others in the name of God, especially if the Spirit was doing a new work in their lives. I was in Lagos in January 2007, and I stand as witness to a beautiful and tender new work of the Spirit alive in the ministries of House of Rainbow.

As I reflect upon recent events in Lagos, I am reminded of the night of the last Passover meal that Jesus shared with his friends. What felt like an ending became a new beginning. From that time forward, people would gather around the cup and bread, telling the story of how Love was healing the world in the midst of fear and violence, carrying the promise of Christ to each new generation. But on the night Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, I wonder if the original communion cup was left behind in the panic? If so, what happened to it? Perhaps, through a mystery of faith, that cup is the same one waiting today on a makeshift altar in an abandoned room in Lagos--waiting for the beloved community to return, waiting to heal and bring forgiveness, crying out to God for her children. Did the kill men, officers, or robbers notice the cup and bread when they got there? If they did, could they sense the cup crying for them too?

“This is my body broken for you,
My blood shed as a new covenant of forgiveness.
As you do to the least of these, so you do to me.”

The cup of communion cries out for us to value righteousness and justice rooted in compassion. Vigilante justice is not justice, it is rooted in the belief that might equals right, which we know is not true. Today, I cry aloud to God with Rev. Jide and House of Rainbow; with disappearing and executed young gay and lesbian leaders in parts of the Middle East; with women-loving-women raped and murdered in South African townships and abroad. Today, I cry aloud to God for my own ignorance and fear of difference, change, and new scriptural understandings. And I cry aloud for a broken communion. How many times will the Body of Christ need to be broken before we learn to be merciful?

I believe that Rev. Jide and House of Rainbow MCC will not only survive to worship another day, but will thrive when ‘this too shall pass.’ They carry within their hearts a Spirit-given vision of a more inclusive Lagos and Nigeria, and this vision has wings. It is part of a distinguished global Christian renewal movement toward greater openness and understanding of diversity. House of Rainbow is a new work of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. UFMCC began as a group of 12 people in Los Angeles, USA in 1968, becoming an international fellowship within three years. The Spirit alighted like a spark in the midst of marginalised people throughout the world, and they began to gather in hopeful and visionary ways to live out a calling to Christian spirituality, inclusive community, and social justice. UFMCC does not set up missions as denominations did in the colonial and evangelical past. Our fellowship has grown by invitation and local initiative. An open communion remains the defining practice wherever MCCers worship.

My prayer today is that religious leaders across the spectrum of ideologies will decry acts of vigilantism and reckless media practices that endanger others, especially when dogmatic differences are at the heart of the situation. Perhaps the saddest point of reflection on the situation in Lagos is that no local religious leader has spoken out to stop the escalation. There are differing opinions when it comes to the ethics of sexuality, but surely we can find common ground in the belief in mutual dignity and the right to live without fear of violence. To understand why people of minority sexualities and genders would risk their lives to worship, one would need to understand the passion with which we value an open communion. The cup that cries aloud for her children is the ancestral voice of the suffering Christ. From this cup of bloodshed and forgiveness, we hear the cries of all who have been kept from the table before, as well as the lament of all who mistakenly became a stumbling block for others. An open communion celebration reminds us to remember the mercies shown to us in the past, while charging us to embody the breadth of Christ’s Love so that all who are thirsty may come and drink. It is the best that we have to offer one another. Cry aloud, Nigeria and all countries, your rainbow sons and daughters are bringing you a precious gift. May our world be blessed in receiving them.

God, teach us mercy along the way to understanding. Amen.

Friday, January 9, 2009

SENEGAL; Free AIDS Activists

For Immediate Release

Senegal: Free AIDS Activists
Eight-Year Sentences in Threatening Conditions for 9 Accused of ‘Indecent and Unnatural Acts’

(New York, January 9, 2009) – The sentencing in Dakar on January 6, 2009 of nine men who were involved in HIV-prevention work, on charges of “indecent and unnatural acts” and “forming associations of criminals,” shows how laws against homosexual conduct damage HIV- and AIDS-prevention efforts as well as the work of human rights defenders, Human Rights Watch said today.

“These charges will have a chilling effect on AIDS programs,” said Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program. “Outreach workers and people seeking HIV prevention or treatment should not have to worry about police persecution. Senegal should drop these charges and repeal its sodomy law.”

HIV and AIDS advocates in Senegal report that the ruling has produced widespread panic among organizations addressing HIV and AIDS, particularly those working with men who have sex with men and other marginalized populations.

These nine men apparently were arrested merely on suspicion of engaging in homosexual conduct. In that case, international human rights provisions mandate their immediate release. So long as they remain detained – given the general climate of hostility against men perceived to engage in homosexual conduct and the risk of violence against them – Senegalese authorities should ensure their safety by separating them from other prisoners, if necessary. The authorities must also ensure that the men receive any necessary medical care, including antiretroviral therapy.

The men were detained on December 19, 2008, after several police officers burst into the private residence of an HIV outreach worker some miles outside Dakar at 11 p.m. and arrested all nine men in the house. The police confiscated condoms and lubricants – tools used for HIV-prevention work. The police forced several of the men to disclose family members’ phone numbers and threatened to inform their families. Sources told Human Rights Watch that the men were beaten in detention, which would constitute a significant violation of Senegal’s international human rights obligations.

The men were charged with violating article 319.3 of Senegal’s penal code, which provides that “whoever commits an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex will be punished by imprisonment of between one and five years.” Reports received by Human Rights Watch indicate that the men were not engaged in any activity considered criminal under Senegalese law.

At the trial, prosecutors apparently used the materials found in the house that are standard HIV-prevention tools used in outreach work as evidence of homosexual conduct, for which the men received the maximum five-year sentence. They were also found guilty of “criminal association” in violation of article 238 of the penal code, permitting the judge to add three years to their five-year term.

“Senegal’s sodomy law invades privacy, criminalizes health work, justifies brutality, and feeds fear,” said Long. “This case shows why it is time for the sodomy law to go.”

The men’s arrest and detention violates article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to liberty and security of person and rights against arbitrary detention. Senegal ratified the ICCPR in 1978, without reservations. Criminal trials under article 319.3 of the penal code violate Senegal’s treaty commitments. Senegal should repeal article 319.3, which also severely hampers HIV/AIDS-prevention and education efforts, barring large populations from access to treatment and care.

The men were arrested only days after Senegal served as the host for the 15th International Conference on AIDS and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) in Africa (ICASA). Presentations at this conference pointed out the apparent contradiction in some countries, such as Senegal, which target HIV/AIDS-prevention efforts at populations of men of who have sex with men but continue to criminalize same-sex relations. Advocates working in HIV and AIDS prevention point out that such an approach necessarily drives the targeted populations underground and mitigates the efficacy of HIV intervention efforts.

Article 7 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders specifically provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance.” The report of the special representative of the secretary-general on human rights defenders to the UN General Assembly specifically identifies human rights defenders from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities as being at particular risk and has called for greater state vigilance in protecting their rights.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which authoritatively interprets the ICCPR and evaluates compliance with its provisions, found in the 1994 case of Toonen v. Australia that laws criminalizing consensual homosexual conduct among adults violate the ICCPR’s protections. According to UNAIDS data, at least 5 to 10 percent of HIV infections worldwide occur through sex between men, though this figure varies considerably by region. Laws criminalizing consensual sexual conduct drive these vulnerable populations underground and permit gross violations of the fundamental rights to life, freedom of expression and association, and health.

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, please visit:

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For more information, please contact:
In New York, Scott Long (English): +1-212-216-1297; or +1-646-641-5655 (mobile)
In New York, Joseph Amon (English): +1-917-519-8930 (mobile)
In Brussels, Reed Brody (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese): +32-2-737-1489; or +32 -498-625786 (mobile)