UK government grants asylum to Nigerian gay Christian activist

By staff writers
29 Jul 2008

Davis MacIyalla, director of the lesbian and gay rights group Changing Attitude Nigeria, has been granted asylum in the United Kingdom. Mr Davis has been subject to a range of attacks and death threats for his Christian work.

MacIyalla fled Nigeria in 2006 following a worsening series of menaces. After settling in Togo a brief period of calm was followed by further intimidation, culminating in a violent assault in April 2008.

In the same week a fellow gay Anglican activist was severely beaten while representing Davis at his sister’s funeral in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Following his arrival in the UK, to help contribute to the Listening Process ahead of the Lambeth Conference of worldwide Anglican bishops, Davis MacIyalla and the Director of Changing Attitude England, the Rev Colin Coward, both received more death threats.

British police established that the threats originated outside the UK and MacIyalla decided that he had no option but to seek asylum in Britain.

Mr MacIyalla commented: "This is a huge relief. This morning I wasn’t a free man – now I’m safe. My great sadness is for all my brother and sister LGBT Christians back in Nigeria whose lives are still limited and sometimes endangered, just because of who they are."

Colin Coward added: "We’re very grateful that the UK government has taken seriously the threat to Davis’ life were he to return to Africa.

"Thanks to his refugee status he can continue to work for LGBT Nigerian Anglicans, along with friends and colleagues from many parts of Africa, from the safety of a base in London."

The UK Government’s recognition that Nigeria can be a dangerous place for gay Christians sits in stark contrast to the view of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) leaders who until recently denied that that homosexuality existed within their church.

They still refuse to condemn violence against gay people and continue to deny them recognition as baptised members of the Church.

Unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct against Mr MacIyalla have continued to be posted on the Nigerian Anglican Church's website, despite refutation.

When the work of Changing Attitude Nigeria first came to light in the international media, spokespersons for the Church at first appeared to deny Mr MacIyalla's existence and have since sought to denigrate him.

Supporters have said that their stance has made a mockery of the Listening Process which has supposed to have developed within the Anglican Communion, alongside attempts by sections of the Church to outlaw gay participation and punish those who recognise LGBT persons as fellow members of the Body of Christ.

Commenting in her Lambeth diary, London Times religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill noted of the granting of asylum: "This is extremely rare here and a clear indication of how seriously the British Government is taking the attacks and threats made against him in Nigeria. It will also surely send a signal to bishops meeting here about this whole issue, to be on the agenda of indaba [discussion and listening] groups this week."

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