A REVIEW OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE LGBTQ AND BELIEF SYSTEM IN AFRICA

A REVIEW OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE LGBTQ AND BELIEF SYSTEM IN AFRICA

Beliefs are deficient and dangerous in the absence of sufficient and informed knowledge. In order to avoid falling into this dangerous trap, it is of utmost importance that we understand the roots of our beliefs (particularly our religious beliefs). Very few of us have ever paused to think about how we came to be Christian or Muslim or adherents of whatever religious faith we profess today. More often than not, our religious beliefs are an accident of our geographic location. For example, my family comes from Nigeria’s Niger Delta region – a region where African traditional religions were practiced for thousands of years before the arrival of the British colonialists, who subsequently oversaw the establishment of Christianity in the region. The result is that today, I am a Christian; not because I made the informed decision to be one but because I was born into an environment where Christianity was the norm and I merely followed in the footsteps of my parents. Had I been born in, say, predominantly Muslim Zamfara in Northern Nigeria, my story would most likely have been different. In the same vein, if perhaps rather than the British Christians, my ancestral region in the Niger Delta had been colonized by a group of Hindus or Sikhs from India, then perhaps I would have been a Hindu or a Sikh. Basically, replace the variables of religion in any desired format and you will still obtain the same results. My point is that basically, most of us practice our present religious beliefs, not by virtue of choice, but purely as a result of coincidence and accident.

My next point is about homosexuality and choice. It is alarming to know that a lot of Nigerians (including many LGBT individuals themselves) think that being gay is a choice despite the constant and ceaseless stigmatization and ostracism faced by gay persons in many parts of the world. It is mind-boggling that anyone would imagine that another human being would choose to be a victim of constant physical and emotional torment. This cruel lack of understanding is a source of deep and constant sadness for me. I am constantly heartbroken at the millions of LGBTQ persons around the world who are constant victims of hate crimes as a result of their sexual orientation. I have therefore resolved to study and understand in detail the dynamic root causes of this deep hatred of LGBT persons.

A few years ago, a survey was conducted in Nigeria where it was discovered that many respondents were of the strong opinion that Nigeria would be a better place without gay people. This must be the mother lode of all ironies, given the fact that a vast majority of Nigerians fight ferociously and expend enormous resources and energy in trying to emigrate legally – and illegally – to Europe, Canada and the USA, regions which are well known for their strong embrace of the same minority they reject. Indeed ignorance in belief is more dangerous and can do more damage than an army of ten thousand men.

An overwhelming majority of Nigerians are very early in life taught to believe that gay persons are an abomination and a violation of God’s law, and hence, do not deserve to live, or at best should live as a group of cursed outcasts at the mercy of the godly heterosexual majority. This harmful teaching conveniently overlooks the fact that the Christian Holy Book commands its followers to Love. This commandment to Love is the Bible’s greatest commandment and is second to none.

This makes the display of such unjustified hatred towards other human beings, many of whom are fellow Christians simply on account of their sexual orientation, an act of naked disobedience to the core tenets of Christianity.

In March 2017, it was revealed that Government officials in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania had ordered that social media accounts belonging to “known” gay persons be monitored in order to track down other homosexuals who are their friends on Facebook. This is a gross misuse of power and public resources particularly in a region faced with enormous public health issues such as a high mortality rates due to malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other health crises. There is a near total absence of clean and potable drinking water, vast numbers of internally displaced persons due to war and civil unrest, increasing unemployment, economic instability which has resulted in crushing and debilitating poverty for ordinary citizens. It is therefore a source of befuddlement that elected government officials are instead focused on deploying public resources towards stripping citizens of their civil rights, restricting their freedom to interact freely on social media, and denying them basic liberties and protections from harassment and intimidation. The worst of these violations is the denial of freedom to access basic health care services.

The human mind is one of the most powerful tools in existence today and hence our thoughts soon become our actions. The abuse and discrimination faced by LGBTQI in Nigeria and other parts of Africa today is mainly led by minds fed with hatred and prejudice rather than with humanity and compassion, myth and ignorance rather than facts and knowledge.

Bearing this in mind, our responsibility as Nigerians and denizens of this world is to be part of the solution. Our responsibility as persons of faith is the entrenchment of peace and dignity for all as demanded of us by our religious beliefs. Our responsibility as gay persons is to understand that the LGBTQ rights movement, while focused on protecting sexual minorities from violence and abuse, is rooted on the notion that all humans are entitled to live freely, happily and in prosperity. We recognize this and work in whatever strides to attain it. We must work hard to tackle violent extremism which threatens our continued existence from different fronts. We must fight to set virtuous examples through our lives by discrediting and marginalizing any extremist interpretations of religious beliefs in whatever forms they appear.

Written by Edafe Richie Okporo

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22 Comments

  1. Mandy
    May 14, 07:20 Reply

    A clarion call for us to do better and be better as people, Christians and LGBT individuals.
    Good writeup.

  2. ambivalentone
    May 14, 08:04 Reply

    I was born into the christian faith, and I am constantly amused when her adherents keep claiming God gave us all the gift of choice and yet I cannot become an apostate or gay in peace without their judgemental arses on my case. Of course I start to hear myself compared as either of those to a murderer, rapist, thief, paedophile, bestial person and I start to wonder, who did I hurt with this choice?

    • Pink Panther
      May 14, 08:20 Reply

      …and I start to wonder, who did I hurt with this choice?”

      ☝☝☝This!

    • Mitch
      May 14, 09:41 Reply

      I swear!
      Why give me the gift of choice and totally refuse my using it?
      Kini gbogbo nonsense ni?

  3. Aisha
    May 14, 08:08 Reply

    Really Edafe? This can’t be more two-faced than hypocrisy. U that mounts church pulpits and preach against this very fact u talked about. How can a pastor of RCCG, a very homophobic church be forming activism here, I can still remember you telling me on many times, u can never be an activist, oga what changed? U could have done more and positively affect Nigerian youth lives than this. Oh!!! America happened

    • Pink Panther
      May 14, 08:11 Reply

      I’m sorry, are you judging the writer for who he once was or he is now?

      • Aisha
        May 14, 08:22 Reply

        Am not judging him, just calling him out. Example you pinky, stuck out ur neck amidst Nigeria homophobic nature and created this platform to help Nigeria LGBT. What has Mr Edafe done, he could have used his power, brains and oratory prowers to do something for the community, nah he ll rather use it to benefit himself and condem LGBT in public in churches and etc. He was so loved and benefitted a lot from his church, he did so well and pretended to be straight and was so good at tht. Now, obviously he is USA, where working for LGBT pays, he is forming activism. We know them.

        • Pink Panther
          May 14, 08:26 Reply

          Oh come on, Aisha. I understand your indignation. But its never too late to do the right thing. As long as one’s heart is in the right place.
          If Mr. Edafe truly now believes in the equality of gay people, why should it matter that he didn’t do it sooner? Let’s not shut the door on people who mean well simply because they came late to the party

        • Gad
          May 14, 08:47 Reply

          Jesus!!!. Nigerians and hypocrisy especially these businessmen called pastors. Pinky, I understand your defense of Edafe but if he had added a caveat saying “I was like this or like that once upon a time but now I know better, I’m changed “, I’m sure Aisha wouldn’t see any reason to call him a hypocrite. I kept saying that double dealing is one of the greatest undoing of the LGBTQ community. The other day, a medic, a gayman told of how he pretended to be busy till a victim of homophobic attack died of injuries he sustained in the attack. Sad

          • Pink Panther
            May 14, 08:52 Reply

            About the caveat, i see your point. You’re right about that. After all, an admission of guilt is the first step is making amends.

          • ambivalentone
            May 14, 10:55 Reply

            Wait o!!! Double dealing ni kini??? *rubs eyes frantically* I knew too much garri wud affect my sight one day

          • FJ
            May 14, 15:52 Reply

            ? That wasn’t only wicked but also against the hypocratic oat the medic swore to.

            • Edafe
              May 14, 18:06 Reply

              i suffered as a result of my advocacy and support of the LGBT community, i have not seen your face in front of the community giving support, as a result working for the first human right and LGBT led organization in abuja Nigeria.
              The Omololu Falobi Award | AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) Global Advocacy for HIV prevention
              Awardee for grassroots advocacy for men who have sex with men (MSM) October 2016, Chicago, USA

        • FJ
          May 14, 16:26 Reply

          A rent boy with whom a clergy gay man had nice night before the sunday morning sermon once told how this same clergy condemned homosexuality in harshest tone when confronted with questions bothering on sexuality and homosexual tendencies. The rent boy was so mad that he almost outed the man of God. He simply staged a walk out to protest the indignation and of course the preacher got the message.

    • Delle
      May 14, 09:07 Reply

      Because I’m not one to take hypocrisy lightly, I’m not going to deny the disdain I feel and the anger churning in my stomach that I even commented under this post.
      If truly he was this way, he has no business penning down and even submitting this inspirational write-up.
      After being safe in the social and political comfort of the American society, you turned activist?

      If you couldn’t be an activist during (harsh) times here in Nigeria but simply went on to get cosy in another country to turn one, you don’t deserve any accolades.

      I share in your anger, Aisha.

  4. Gad
    May 14, 08:28 Reply

    While commending the efforts put at bringing about this work, I must confess that I had expected something that strengthens further discuss on yesterday’s epic post “By The River”. In this age of sophistication, sometimes, a simple story is all we need to bring out valid points and clear a lot of doubts and silence gainsayers. Thanks for this beautiful contributions of yours. I strongly believe, though, that the core problem of the LGBTQ in our clime lies within the community itself. My ancestors used to say that beauty or goodness starts from within. If we keep our house in order first, we will discover that a lot of progress has been made, even without much struggle.

  5. Delle
    May 14, 09:00 Reply

    What the society fails to understand is that the more the battles against the LGBTQ community is protracted, the more the unrest we would be subjected to.
    If this world feels they are better of without gay men and women, then self-deceit is more widespread than I thought.

    I’m glad for one thing though. Gay men and women are fighting now. The battle – no matter how inconspicuous – is ongoing and it feels me with so much hope for the future.
    I’m Christian, I’m gay, I’m human and I’d live.

  6. Mitch
    May 14, 10:04 Reply

    This is a good wake up call to Nigerians, both gay and heterosexual.

    “Humanity above sexuality”.
    If this becomes our mantra, in every facet of life, we’d find that the world would not only become a much better place but it’d become the heaven that so many so desperately seek.

  7. Canis VY Majoris
    May 14, 10:45 Reply

    Worthy of being read out loud at a UN conference or something of that ilk. Well written and well stated. Good one.

  8. Quinn
    May 14, 13:38 Reply

    Eeh! my Niger Delta brother! abeg I’m not being tribalistic o Lol. Really loved this piece. For me its all about what “we were exposed to as Children”

  9. cedar
    May 14, 15:27 Reply

    can someone insert d caveat already?
    nice write up though.

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