ABUJA, Nigeria, December 14, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Nigeria’s Catholic bishops are praising the country’s Senate for its “courageous and hope-inducing decision” to pass a bill outlawing same-sex unions and public displays of homosexuality last month.
The bill, passed Nov. 29th, came amidst threats by foreign leaders, especially U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, of aid cuts if African countries fail to enshrine special rights for homosexuals.
On December 7th, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria issued a statement saying the vote to outlaw same-sex unions and “all such public manifestations” came as a “great relief” to most Nigerians.
“We wish to strongly support the prohibition of same-sex union as an expression both of our cultural values as Nigerians and our religious belief as Christians,” they wrote.
The bishops’ stance would come as a shock to many Christians in the West where even prominent Catholic prelate Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England has appeared to express support for same-sex unions.
But the Nigeria bishops insisted that forbidding even public displays of homosexual affection is essential to the country’s moral health. “Far from being a denial of the fundamental right of some Nigerians who would engage in it, such a prohibition protects our society from the usurpation of its right to moral health and cultural decency,” they explained.
“The Senate took this courageous and hope-inducing decision in the face of considerable internal and international pressure to do the exact opposite,” they continued. “Nigeria has in fact since then been directly asked by some Western countries to reverse this decision or forfeit certain aids and support.”
At the October Commonwealth conference in Perth, Australia, Cameron told media that British aid “should have more strings attached.”
“We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights, and that includes how people treat gay and lesbian people,” he said.
The prime minister’s comments followed a failed bid by the UK, Canada, and other Western countries to pressure African Commonwealth members to rescind their pro-family laws.
The bill, which now moves to the lower house and will need the signature of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, establishes that the state only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman. It imposes a 14-year sentence for same-gendered couples that attempt to wed and a 10-year sentence for those who witness or assist at a same-sex “wedding.”
It also bans involvement in homosexual activist groups and public displays of affection by homosexual couples.
In their statement, Nigeria’s bishops joined numerous African leaders in decrying Western governments’ efforts to “impose” their values on the continent.
“We declare that no country has the right to impose on another such conditions as are likely to upset its common cultural and societal values just to satisfy the exotic desires and tendencies of a few,” the bishops wrote.
Find the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria’s statement here.