Christian leaders around the world, particularly in the Anglican Communion, are being urged to condemn proposed legislation in Uganda which would introduce the death penalty for certain consensual homosexual acts.
In an open letter published by the Guardian today, the prominent gay Christian Nigerian activist Davis Mac-Iyalla has called on the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican primates to speak out against the bill, whatever their views on “homosexuality as a moral issue”.
Sexual activity between two people of the same sex is already punishable by life imprisonment in Uganda. The proposed bill – backed by certain Anglican figures in the country - would bring in the death penalty for anyone whose same-sex partner is aged under 18 or is disabled.
The bill would also introduce a range of new offences, permitting imprisonment for three years for anyone in a position of authority, such as a minister of religion, who knew of a homosexual act but failed to report it.
“As a practising Anglican Christian, I believe it is crucial that the Anglican Communion unites to prevent the killing of people on the grounds of sexuality” said Mac-Iyalla, who now lives as a refugee in Britain following homophobic persecution in his native Nigeria.
Like many Christian activists, he is particularly angry that Ugandan politicians promoting the bill claim that they are motivated by Christianity.
“The Church of England has a duty to condemn the anti-homosexuality legislation and put pressure on those MPs who support such laws,” added Mac-Iyalla, “Anglicans should unite in condemnation of violent persecution and discrimination of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered] people whoever and wherever they are, particularly when it is carried out in the name of Jesus Christ”.
The letter is expected to add to the growing pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to make a clear public statement calling on Christians to oppose the legislation.
While some Anglican primates, such as Archbishop Peter Akinola, have refused to condemn physical assaults on gay people, most of those who oppose homosexual practice insist that they do not believe in persecuting gay people. The extent to which they speak out on the Ugandan situation is likely to be seen by many as a measure of their sincerity.
The legislation has already been condemned by a large number of NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Sexual Minorities Uganda.
Mac-Iyalla points out that the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in 1998 criticised the “irrational fear” of homosexuality and committed the Communion “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons”, assuring them that they are “loved by God”.
Also on Ekklesia: “Anti-Gay bill tests core Christian witness” by Savi Hensman: