By Michael O'Loughlin
Originally published on Advocate.com February 05 2014 1:07 PM ET
Catholic bishops in Nigeria are congratulating the president for successfully pushing legislation that imposes 14-year jail sentences for gay people who marry, and punishes any gathering of LGBT people in that African nation, placing those who run LGBT organizations in jail for a decade.
Ignatius Kaigama, archbishop of the Middle Belt region of Jos, told SaharaTV that Catholic bishops in Nigeria “thank God that this bill was passed,” and in a letter sent to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, called the law “a courageous one and a clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand shoulders high in the protection of our Nigerian and African most valued cultures of the institution of marriage.”
The letter slammed what Kaigama believes are outside forces trying to bring marriage equality to Nigeria:
“We commend you for this courageous and wise decision and pray that God will continue to bless, guide and protect you and your administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices, that have continued to debase the purpose of God for man in the area of creation and morality, in their own countries.”
The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, and its affiliates have been among the most vocal opponents of marriage equality in the U.S. and around the world. In hopes that Pope Francis may be more open to defending the dignity of LGBT people than his predecessors, some lay Catholics are encouraging the 77-year-old Argentine to speak out against oppressive legislation like Nigeria’s. Notably, Catholic doctrine also teaches that LGBT people are to be treated with dignity and respect, a sentiment Kaigama tried to express.
“As a priest and by my Christian values it not a crime to be gay or heterosexual," Kaigama told SaharaTV. "I will treat [a gay person] with great understanding and love, with great compassion."
With a population equally split between Christians and Muslims, the 170 million-person nation has experienced religion-fueled violence over the past several years.
Michael O'Loughlin is a writer based in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in America, Religion News Service, and Religion & Politics. Find more of his work mikeoloughlin.com, and follow him on Twitter at @MikeOLoughlin.