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Humanists to Meet in Abuja

All is now set for the historic convention of the Nigerian Humanist Movement to be held on September 23 to 24 at Vines Hotel Durumi in Abuja. The event will be the first meeting of the county’s growing community of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers,secularists and skeptics at the Federal Capital of Nigeria. Many friends of humanists and supporters of humanism and freethought including university teachers and students will attend. The theme of the convention is HUMANISM AS THE NEXT STEP.

This convention marks the 15th anniversary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM). 

The event is taking place at a crucial time Nigeria is grappling with the problems of religious extremism, superstition and related human rights abuses.

Some years ago Nigeria was polled as one the most religious nation on earth. It may still remain the case today. The fact is that most Nigerians, at least nominally, profess one religion-mainly Christianity or Islam- or the other. Most Nigerians identify with the faith of their families, communities and tribes. Few Nigerians are openly and expressly non religious. All Nigerians are pressured socially and politically to be religious and to remain religious. So most Nigerians who are non religious and who renounce religion remain in the closet. NHM provides a sense of community to all non religious and non theistic Nigerians and strives to bring a humanist perspective to issues of national importance.

Religion has not always been a force for good, peace and harmony in the country. In fact religion has caused a lot of division, hatred, intolerance and conflict. Religion has been used to sanctify and justify evil, harm and atrocious acts. Divided into a largely muslim North and a Christian south, adherents of the two faiths often clash and kill one another. There is widespread discrimination on the basis of religion across the country. Religious indoctrination is prevalent in Nigerian families, schools, colleges and universities. In the past few years, religious violence in the North central city of Jos has left at least 1000 people dead and several thousands injured. Not less than 10,000 Nigerians have lost their lives to sectarian violence since Independence.

The religious bloodletting is perpetrated mainly by islamists and jihadists in Northern Nigeria who want to enforce sharia law and enthrone an Islamic state by force.

In August, a bomb blast allegedly carried out by a local islamist group, the Boko Haram, at the UN building in Abuja left at least 23 people dead. Hundreds of people have been shot and killed by suspected members of this dreaded sect. The Nigerian government has proved incompetent and incapable of handling and resolving the protracted religious crisis in the country.

Many Nigerian children who are branded witches or wizards by pastors, prophets and witch doctors are beaten, tortured and sometimes killed. Most penticostal churches are prosecuting witch hunts across the country. They subject innocent Nigerians particularly elderly persons, women, children, and people with disabilities to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment in the name of exorcism. Many Nigerians have lost their lives to ritualists who harvest their body parts for sacrifice. The belief that human beings can harm others through witchcraft is still very strong. The practice of witchcraft accusations and ritual sacrifice is widespread. Lack of political will and corruption in the police and justice system continue to hamper efforts to address these problems. Will Nigeria be able to take the rational step of humanism? Will Nigerians abandon superstition and embrace science, reason and critical thinking? Will the secularists be able to stop the advance of islamists and their Christian counterparts? Will Nigerians allow theocrats to overun their democracy? Or will Nigerians be able to sustain the constitutional wall separating religion and state?

For two days, participants will be brainstorming on these questions and issues. They will be articulating a humanist response to the challenges facing Nigeria early in this 21st century. Prof Uzodinma Nwala of the Nassarawa State University, will keynote the Opening while Prof Steve Okecha and Dr Jide Akeredolu will make lead presentations. Humanist rights activists working and campaigning against witchcraft accusation and ritual killing will share their thoughts and experiences. There will be interventions from representatives of the Albino Foundation, World Coalition against the Death Penalty, anti caste campaign and sexual minority groups. The convention will be concluded with a World Humanist Day Lecture, titled The Challenge of Humanism, to be delivered by Graham Knight.