Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Some thoughts on courage

At the end of the work day, I do a brief scan of blog headlines to try to get up to speed on what's happening out there in the wide, wide world (channeling the Poky Little Puppy). This evening, a predominant theme is that the Democrats "caved" on Iraq. Quite honestly, I'm not sure what I think about that. The thing is--I just don't have the time or interest to follow this story (and others like it) closely enough to have a genuinely informed opinion on what constitutes necessary political courage versus wisely playing the cards you've been dealt. So, guess I'm not cut out to be a political pundit.

But I've been thinking a lot about courage in the past 24 hours, after hearing this man speak at a forum at my church

His name is Davis Mac-Iyalla, and he is the founder of Changing Attitude-Nigeria, a support group for Gay and Lesbian Anglicans, and he is visiting the United States to call attention to the persecution of LGBTs in his country. Even attending a GLBT-affirmative event--something I didn't have to think twice about here in central Ohio would subject me to tremendous risk if I lived in Nigeria. If a draconian "Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act" were to pass, the penalty for being openly "straight but not narrow" would be a five year prison term.

From time to time, I have wondered, if Demetrius and I were born at a different time...if we had met in 1964 rather than 1984...would I have had the courage to follow my heart and marry outside my "race". It's not an easy question to answer. Mind you, part of the difficulty is my tendency to ask pesky, practical questions, such as, "Where would we have met?" and "How likely is it that we could have spent those long, casual hour together with our mutual friends?" But the basic question I ask myself is, "Would I have the courage to be that kind of pioneer? Could I really be that brave?"

Last night, I was faced with a new question: "Would I have the courage to risk my personal safety--possibly my life--in order to make hostile religious and political authorities acknowledge that I exist?

That's an easy one, and I can answer it right now.

No. Freaking. Way.

So I couldn't help but be awed, humbled, and impressed to hear Davis tell his story. From a statement on the first anniversary of Changing Attitudes-Nigeria,
In the first year, we have many achievements to be proud of, including our impact on the life of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, which had previously denied that lesbian and gay people are members of the church. The Church was so disturbed by our visible presence that it attempted to discredit the organisation, at the same time falsely claiming to be open to gays.
At last night's meeting, Davis Mac-Iyalla described being arrested after one of the early meetings of his organization. He and his fellow members were beaten, and were held for three days without food or water (and without charges), before finally being able to get the bribe money so that his jailers would release him. And not long after that experience, he led the first national meeting of CAN, which was attended by over 1000 GLBT Anglican Nigerians.

I encourage you to read more about Davis Mac-Iyalla and Changing Attitudes-Nigeria. This is not an Anglican issue, or a GLBT issue, or a Nigerian issue--it is, quite plainly, a human rights issue.

The Daily Office (Sponsor of Davis Mac-Iyalla's U.S. tour)
Changing Attitude UK (The director of this organization was instrumental in helping Davis get Changing Attitude Nigeria up and running)
Walking With Integrity (the blog of IntegrityUSA)

Also at My Left Wing, Street Prophets, Booman Tribune, and ePluribus Media

Update with regard to funding:

The people who wish to silence Davis and others like him are very well funded.

Changing Attitudes Nigeria is not. Josh Thomas, who arranged Davis Mac-Iyalla's U.S. tour, and who operates the Daily Office web site, is helping him raise the money needed to continue his work in educating the rest of the world about the plight of GLBT people in Nigeria. Donations are being accepted here.