The often-vituperative argument over sexuality within the 77-million strong Anglican Communion has been thrown into sharp perspective this month (January 2007), when it was revealed that the leader of a group of lesbian and gay Christians in Nigeria has received the latest in a series of death threats.
Nigeria‚Äôs Anglican leader, the Most Rev Peter Akinola, has led the global attack on Christians who take an affirmative position on homosexuality, and his Church has also been accused of colluding in a new Nigerian law which criminalizes same-sex affection and association. Critics say it creates a climate of fear and oppression.
It is this situation which adds additional poignancy to reports that Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, was delivered a hand-written letter to his home on 9 January 2007.
The note concludes with the threat to bathe Davis Mac-Iyalla with acid unless he repents and describes itself as ‚Äúa final warning‚Äù. Mr Mac-Iyalla has already received four email threats, apparently from the same source, says Changing Attitude UK.
In the past there have also been attempts to smear Mr Mac-Iyalla with allegations of financial and other improprieties.
The letter was apparently delivered during the night. It notes that Mr Mac-Iyalla has not ‚Äúpaid heed‚Äù to the numerous warnings and threats already issued. The writer or writers have decided it is time to carry on with their action to redeem the image of African Christian and moral values because Mr Mac-Iyalla‚Äôs very existence poses great danger to the youth of the Nigerian Church. His total repentance and confession is demanded.
An email received before Christmas 2006 warned Mr Mac-Iyalla the he would be used as a scapegoat to deter and teach others a bitter lesson unless they separate themselves from such ‚Äúevil people‚Äù (meaning homosexual persons).
The letter is anonymous, but ends with the title ‚ÄòSave Africa against same sex relationship‚Äô. The emails were identified as coming from someone named Femi Afolabi, at a Yahoo! Email address.
Changing Attitude stresses that there is no evidence that the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is directly involved in the threats to Mr Mac-Iyalla‚Äôs life. But it says that whoever the individual or individuals are, they have the resources to investigate the location of Mr Mac-Iyalla (which has never been made public) and have travelled to deliver the letter and by implication, to be physically present and able to carry out their threat.
In a news release the organization says: ‚ÄúThey [those making the threats] see themselves as emissaries expressing the views of the Church and carrying out action appropriate to a gay member of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.‚Äù
Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, himself said: ‚ÄúOn reading the letter, I felt immediately that my life was in great danger and the person threatening me knows who I am and where I can be found. I have felt very unsafe since the emails started to arrive, and now fear for my life.‚Äù
He continued: ‚ÄúI have been called by God to lead this work of starting to change the attitude of my church, of which I am a faithful member, and of lesbian and gay Anglicans in Nigeria. We will not be intimidated by these threats. I continue to put all my faith in God who has called me and protects me every day. I am committed to the listening process and helping our supporters have confidence to tell their story to the church.‚Äù
Continued Mac-Iyalla: ‚ÄúThe church wants to threaten and bully me so that there will never be any gay Nigerian Christian who is prepared to speak out. They may dream that one day I will stand next to Archbishop Akinola and publicly repent of being a sinner. I thought we lesbian and gay Anglicans [were] the weak minority in Nigeria. I wonder how it has come to pass that the church leaders are now so worried that they want to destroy me. I am not ready to remain silent under these threats and intimidation. I may be weak and fearful of the threats but I grow stronger as time passes and I want to keep moving on and developing the work of CAN.‚Äù
The Rev Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, said: ‚ÄúWe are taking this death threat very seriously indeed. I am now even more deeply concerned for Davis‚Äôs safety and security. I believe the threat is real.‚Äù
He called on the Church in Nigeria to condemn the actions unequivocally.
Changing Attitude is an Anglican network working for ‚Äúthe day when the Anglican Churches fully accept, welcome and offer equality of opportunity to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.‚Äù