Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude Network (Nigeria), who left the country in 2006, said that he could now work in safety to further the welfare of other Nigerians who were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual.
Mr Mac-Iyalla, who addressed a fringe meeting at the Lambeth Conference on Tuesday, said that he could introduce bishops who denied that there were any gay Africans to several homosexuals from Africa. Homosexuality had existed in Africa long before Westerners arrived, he said. “Homosexuality was known in Africa: what was not known was Christianity. But the missionaries came and said it was a sin. It is not homosexuality that is a Western thing.”
The Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Revd Daniel Deng, had stated at the Conference that there were no gay people in Sudan, but, Mr Mac-Iyalla said, “there are African homosexuals here at the Lambeth Conference from Uganda, Ruanda, and Tanzania, and we are all the same. We are no different from the Sudanese. We are not a political organisation.”
In Nigeria, where being gay had been criminalised, it had become very difficult for homosexuals. “The Church should be protesting against the laws that criminalise homosexuality, and it should be offering churches as a safe place, instead of colluding with the government,” he said.
“Before Akinola became Archbishop, I had a number of bishops who knew me well and related to me, but because of Akinola they have had to suppress their views. The Nigerian bishops dare not even come to Lambeth, although many wanted to, for fear of what would happen to them. The one who did try had to go back, otherwise he would have been excommunicated or defrocked.
“If that’s what would happen to a bishop, can you image what would happen to a gay person?”
He had seen no African bishops at the fringe meeting, “African Day of Action”, that he had addressed. “They are more keen to speak than to listen. African bishops are avoiding the truth.”
Two years ago he had been denounced by the present Bishop of Ife in a press release, after he had said that he was gay and Anglican. “But we exist, and we are part of the Church and not strangers to the Church, contrary to what the African bishops are saying.
“I think God is helping us. Nobody would have thought then that gay Anglicans could come out and tell their stories.”