Mere Anglicanism

Ban on sickle-cell marriages

The Church of Nigeria’s Bishop of Awka has banned his clergy from solemnizing the marriages of couples where both partners are carriers of Sickle-cell disease

The Church of Nigeria’s Bishop of Awka has banned his clergy from solemnizing the marriages of couples where both partners are carriers of Sickle-cell disease. The Rt. Rev. Alex Chibuzo Ibezim on 5 Nov 2015 also urged his clergy to require testing for the disease as part of pre-marital counseling. According to a 2006 World Health Organization report, Sickle-cell disease, or sickle-cell anemia is a common genetic condition due to a haemoglobin disorder – inheritance of mutant haemoglobin genes from both parents — that causes life-long health problems and leads to an early death. It is concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and among populations of the African diaspora in the Americas and Europe. Approximately 300,000 infants are born with the disease each year. “In west African countries such as Ghana and Nigeria, the frequency of the trait is 15% to 30% whereas in Uganda it shows marked tribal variations, reaching 45% among the Baamba tribe in the west of the country,” the WHO reported. A person who has inherited only one mutant gene from one parent will lead a healthy life, the WHO noted, but the child of two carriers of the disease will likely have major health problems. Following a meeting last week with the head of the Coordinator of the Association of People Living with Sickle Cell Disorder, Bishop Ibezim said the church’s responsibility was to support those living with the disease “in whatever way we can.” But the church should also take an activist role in preventing the transmission of the disease to future generations. It is “one thing is to make laws and another thing is for people to obey them. The clergy cannot follow them to their bedrooms to force them, especially if they had done the traditional marriage,” he said, adding: “We in the church make sure that, as part of the counselling before marriage, we educate the intended couples on the dangers of going ahead to marry when they are not compatible genotype-wise. Because it is better to make sure that the person you are about to marry is somebody that is compatible. Marriage is all about relationship and the end product of marriage is children. Unless it is a marriage where children are not wanted, then there is no need to worry about sickle cell.”

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