Nigerian activist granted asylum in the UK

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Davis Mac-Iyalla, a leader of the gay Christian movement in Nigeria, has been granted asylum in the UK.

Mr Mac-Iyalla, 36, is the leader of Changing Attitude Nigeria, a group that works for equality for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members of the Anglican Communion.

CAN also promotes a wider LGBT human rights agenda in Nigeria, campaigning, for instance, against the Nigerian government’s bid in 2006 to outlaw same-sex marriage and ban on gay organisations, churches, helplines, counselling groups, meetings and newspapers.

Davis Mac-Iyalla said today:

“The people I wish to thank include the UK government and the Home Office, Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn, my solicitor Abigail Evans of Wilson and Co, the Reverend Stephen Coles, the Reverend Colin Coward and the trustees of Changing Attitude, Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, Sebastian Rocca of UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, Erika Baker, Susan Strong, Mike Hersee, Julian Batson, Inclusive Church and others too numerous to mention.

“Your support in different ways has been absolutely invaluable, not just for me but for our common goals.

“I’m very grateful to the UK government for granting me asylum.

“It means I will have an opportunity to continue working for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Anglican church in Nigeria.

“My heart really goes out to my LGBT brothers and sisters still trapped in Nigeria.

“They are intimated and threatened by the increasingly hostile and violent environment against them, fuelled by the hostility of Archbishop Akinola and his fellow bishops – who claim that we don’t really exist, and if we do then we are the spawn of the devil.

“It is impossible to have a rational debate in such a climate of hatred coming from what is supposed to be a loving church.

“I think Jesus would be appalled at how low the Anglican Church of Nigeria has sunk by straying so far from his message of love and forgiveness that it does the complete opposite.

“If the Anglican Church of Nigeria and the Nigerian government had a more open-minded and understanding attitude, then people like me would not need asylum in the first place.”

Mr Mac-Iyalla was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the police in Abuja in 2005.

Since March 2008, Mr Mac-Iyalla has received email and text messages threatening to kill him. They originate from Nigeria.

This pattern of escalating threats and attacks made it unsafe for Mr Mac-Iyalla to return to Nigeria.

In June he was arrested and incarcerated in Oakington asylum detention centre in Cambridgeshire but was released in time to speak at Pride London about the situation in Nigeria.

With 17.5 million members, Nigeria is the second-largest Anglican province after the Church of England, but its number of regular churchgoers is far higher and growing.

The leader of the church in Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, is one of those leading the charge against gay people being ordained as priests or the blessing of gay relationships.

The Anglican Bishop of Uyo, Rt. Rev. Isaac Orama, last year condemned the activities of homosexuals and lesbians in language that typifies Nigerian Anglican leaders’ hostility to gays.

“Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman,” he said.

“Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God’s purpose for man.”