The Nigerian and Ugandan governments have come under criticism from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The two well respected priests have written to the presidents of Nigeria and Uganda over legislations criminalizing same sex unions. The letter was also addressed to all primates (the heads of national churches) in the Anglican Communion worldwide.
Archbishops Justin Welby of Canterbury and John Sentamu of York said the letter was a result of “questions about the Church of England’s attitude to new legislation in several countries that penalises people with same-sex attraction”.’
Nigeria and Uganda are united in the fight against homosexuality. Earlier in the year, President Goodluck Jonathan appended his signature to a bill which bans same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection. In Uganda, which incidentally is Archbishop Sentamu’s home country, a bill that recommends greater punishments for homosexuals and those who fail to turn them in to law enforcement gents, has been passed by parliament, but blocked – for now – by President Yoweri Museveni.
Human rights groups have criticised the laws in both countries.
Navi Pillay, UN Human Rights chief described the Nigerian law as “draconian”.
She said she had rarely seen a piece of legislation “that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights”.
In their letter, the archbishops reiterated their support for a document known as the Dromantine Communique, published in 2005 by the primates of the Anglican Communion.
The communique said: “We continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give – pastoral care and friendship.”
Archbishop Welby’s stance on homosexual relationships has created tension with more traditionalist Anglicans.
Last October, he held talks with members of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which condemns those who preach what it calls a “false gospel” claiming God’s blessing for same-sex unions.
The primates of seven national Anglican churches in Africa attended October’s GAFCON meeting, including Uganda and Nigeria.
Archbishop Welby has said some gay couples have loving, stable and monogamous relationships of “stunning” quality.
He however said he still supports the Church of England’s opposition to active homosexuality.