The New York Times published a story on Nigeria, whose president, Goodluck Jonathan, signed a harsh law criminalizing homosexuality throughout the country last month. As a result, arrests of gay people have multiplied.
The Times story begins with a young man being whipped 20 times on the courtroom bench, leaving him covered with bruises. It goes on to say that the Nigerian president’s national ban “has redoubled the zeal against gay people here and elsewhere… Officials here in Bauchi say they want to root out, imprison and punish gays.” It goes on to report this:
Homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 African countries, according to Amnesty International, and carries the death penalty in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia, as well as Shariah-governed northern Nigeria. Recently Uganda’s president declined to sign a bill that carried a life sentence for gays, though he called them sick. In Senegal, where the press regularly “outs” gays, same-sex relations carry a penalty of five years.
It seems to me that there’s an opportunity for Christians both overseas and in America to condemn what’s happening–to do so in a manner that is well-considered and effective and doesn’t bend when it comes to upholding the dignity and rights of the human person. Even if the appeals fall on deaf ears, calling attention to and criticizing injustice is a moral requirement.
One need not endorse same-sex marriage to believe that the rising tide of anti-gay legislation in other parts of the world is quite troubling, that gays deserve to be defended against persecution, and that the Christian church is one institution that might have some power, at least in some nations and in some circumstances, to make a positive difference.
Quite apart from the moral merits of this approach, think about the witness it would signal to the world if Christians spoke out in defense of gays in Nigeria and elsewhere and why they deserve protection against imprisonment and violence.
It strikes me that this is an easy call, that it’s clearly the right and decent thing to do. There are plenty of wounded travelers on the roads of cities all across the globe. The Christian faith is best served when its adherents choose not to pass on the other side.