Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A slow news day in Anglican Nigeria or So you're new to Nigeria, eh?

Things have been a bit slow on the news front, but that's ok -- I've been writing a mile a minute for the last week and a half.

For those of you that are new to the proposed "anti-gay-marriage" legislation in Nigeria, or to the fact that all the legislation does that's new is ban speech advocating or defending gay marriage and homosexuality, or to the fact that the Anglican Primate of Nigeria endorsed that legislation, or to the fact that the same Primate appears to have had a role in instigating violence in the southeastern city of Onitsha in late February (or at least has suffered from selective amnesia regarding Christian involvement in that violence), please rest assured that I am new to it, as well. I've been learning as I go along, pulling information out of my now rather antiquated relationship with the Episcopal Church, or following my gut on the one issue in all of this that I feel we should all be agreeing on.

Human rights must be protected -- it serves everyone's interests.

I have deliberately tried to stay out of the Anglican Communion's debate regarding the Episcopal Church's strong advocacy of homosexual relationships. This is because I think that the issue that should be of greatest concern to us all -- an issue that extends beyond the bounds of the day-to-day decisions of the clergy in their ministrations to their flocks, and into the secular world -- is the fact that conservative American Anglicans' have given carte blanche support to Archbishop Akinola's endorsement of the legislation that would actively limit the democratic participation of a small part of the Nigerian population.

Their most prominent argument in their support of Akinola is the most dangerous: the Church in Nigeria is under threat from Islam; Akinola must appease Muslims while protecting his flock in order to prevent further violence. This sounds reasonable at first glance, but it is simply not legitimate to blackmail our best intentions with threats of violence from unfriendly "outsiders." In fact, I am becoming convinced, slowly, that there is no real threat to Nigerian Christians from Nigerian Islam per se, but rather that this "threat" is a convenient scapegoat, used by politicians in control of huge government contracts, for the far more difficult social and political milieu of land and power conflicts that still wracks this oil-rich nation almost eight years after the military government stepped down in 1999.

I'll let you make up your mind on this issue.

Right now, I'm spending my time getting up-to-date on recent Nigerian political struggles. Pretty much anything by Dan Isaacs of the BBC is helpful. Here are excerpts from his May, 2004, analysis:
Some of the violence has pitched Muslims against Christians, but all of them have fallen across different tribal and cultural divides. ... The broad characterisation of a Muslim Hausa-speaking north, and a Christian south made up of two dominant tribes - the Yoruba in the southwest and the Ibo in the southeast - is a vast over-simplification. ... [The conflict] most often boils down to competition between those that see themselves as the true 'indigens' of an area, and those that are considered to be more recent 'settlers'. Whatever the historical justifications, the conflict is always and everywhere about access to scarce resources. This might be farmland, or employment, or access to political power. It could even be jealousy over the provision of water or electricity to one village but not its neighbour. ... At their root, these differences are not cultural or religious. They are economic. [emphasis mine]
Read it all, and also read Isaacs' profile of Olusegun Obasanjo as he ran for his second term as president.

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