Thirty people from across West Africa attended a first-of-its-kind LGBT-friendly interfaith gathering last month in Ghana. Photo courtesy of Davis Mac-Iyalla

First West Africa LGBT-Inclusive Religious Gathering Takes Place

BY BUNMI JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE

An LGBT-inclusive African faith network held its first event late last month.

More than 30 delegates from 10 West African countries gathered in Ghana from Aug. 24-28 for the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa's first-ever interfath diversity event, which was themed "Building Bridges, Sharing Stories, Creating Hope."

On Aug. 24, there was an introductory session for delegates to share their personal stories and outreach programs to support their fellow LGBT people. The participants who were from Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Togo told passionate stories of judgment, denial, shame, violence, rape, hatred and pain.

Participants on Aug. 25 focused on developing religious texts aimed at pushing for LGBT rights advancement and acceptance on the continent. As part of events lined up for this diversity event, the first-ever LGBT-specific interfaith worship in West Africa was held with IDNWA Co-chair Davis Mac-Iyalla presiding.

IDNOWA Co-chair Ngozi Nwosu-Juba in her closing remarks thanked delegates and invited guests, assuring them that the vision of the network was its driving force and this must be achieved for the benefit of community members in West Africa.

"Religion is meant to promote respect for individual irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Mac-Iyalla told the Washington Blade. "We are a legally registered network, our staffs, members and board are all fully involved as a team."

Mac-Iyalla added he "saw the need to start the network because both state and other key players in West Africa are using religion as a weapon of discrimination against LGBT people in West Africa."

"IDNOWA was like the long-awaited messiah in West Africa; our network is embraced by everyone who wants a change in attitude for a fairer and inclusive society for everyone," Mac-Iyalla told Blade on the need for IDNOWA.

Mac-Iyalla adds IDNOWA aims to achieve its mission "through training, research, advocacy, and dialogue."

This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.
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