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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 24 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 04
Catholic officials endorse anti-Gay pogrom in Nigeria
Section One
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Catholic officials endorse anti-Gay pogrom in Nigeria

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Nigeria's highest-ranking Roman Catholic officials endorsed the country's new anti-Gay law while a lynch mob in one of the country's northern states demanded that Gay prisoners be stoned to death.

Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan, appointed Apostolic Administrator for a diocese in southern Nigeria by Pope Francis, said the country had 'every right' to pass laws against Gays.

'[While] the church accepts people as they are, we condemn homosexuality,' Onaiyekan said in an interview with Nigeria PM News.

'Nigeria is an independent country and we do not beg for food. We have every right to order our social life in any way we think it should go. Our social life should not be organized on the basis of what others think.

'On this note, I commend our National Assembly and Mr. President for resisting all the pressures and enacting a law against homosexuality. Signing the bill into law by President Jonathan in spite of pressures from within and outside the country should be commended by all and sundry. The world is at crossroads and there is nothing new under the sun.

'We all know that this is not the first time we have heard about the agitation for gay rights but our position, as a church, has not changed. Even when some sections of society view same sex issues as moral disorder acts, homosexuality has not stopped, it still happens in the open around the world. It doesn't mean that it should be accepted.'

Onaiyekan was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

Meanwhile, Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama thanked God for the new law.

'We thank God that this bill was passed,' Kaigama said in an interview with Sahara TV reporter Rudolf Okonkwo.

The Archbishop quickly added that 'As a priest and by my Christian values, it's not a crime to be Gay or heterosexual. I will treat [a Gay person] with great understanding and love, with great compassion.'

When Okonkwu pointed out that Gay men may be stoned to death in Nigeria's Bauchi state, Kaigama denies that Gay men are at risk.

'That would be . . . they have extra-judicial abilities [in Bauchi, where sharia law applies],' he says. 'I don't imagine that just simply because somebody is Gay he or she will be arrested or maltreated. I don't think that is acceptable. I think the constitution is clear about this. The legislation is very, very clear against Gay unions.'

Kaigama was appointed Archbishop by Pope John Paul II in 1995. In spite of his assurances, 11 Gay men in Bauchi state face a very real risk of death.

Less than a day before the Catholic officials spoke to the press, a lynch mob appeared at the sharia court building in Bauchi City, to demand that 11 prisoners arrested under the new anti-Gay law be stoned to death.

'No one can be sentenced to death until confirmed without a reasonable doubt,' judge El Yakubu Aliyu said in response, and then abruptly adjourned the court.

The mob then threw stones at the court building, and security officers fired into the air to disperse the rioters.

Of the 11 men on trial, only three had given testimony when the riot began. Their defense counsel was unable to submit an application for bail, and the rest of the defendants were unable to give testimony. According to BBC News, it was unclear when the arraignments would resume.

The same court already convicted one young man of sodomy and had him publicly whipped. The court said it was sparing him the sentence of death by stoning because he had confessed to just one act of Gay sex as a boy and had not committed any similar acts since.

Arrests of Gay men began in Bauchi state soon after the new law was signed on January 7, with reports of up to 38 prisoners, but have since spread to several states in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria. In Muslim states, Muslims are usually tried under sharia law, while Christians - who make up the majority in the southern part of the country - are tried under regular civil law.

Sharia prescribes death by stoning for Gay men, while the new civil law establishes 14 years in prison as the maximum penalty for being Gay, joining a Gay organization, entering into a same-sex marriage, or concealing the identity of Gay people from authorities.

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