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Campaigner: Religion is behind homophobic persecution in Africa

Originally published in Digital Journal

One of Africa’s best-known human-rights activists says religion is very much behind Nigeria’s recent outlawing of same-sex unions, which could mean a 14-year jail term for anyone convicted of entering into a gay marriage contract.

Also, according to a report in Nigeria’s Vanguard: “Those who abet or aid such unions could receive 10 years, as would ‘any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations’ – a provision that seems to target gay advocacy groups as well.”

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Witchcraft Branding, Spirit Possession And African Children

Originally published in Sahara Reporters

I just returned from a two day conference on Witchcraft Branding, Spirit Possession and Safeguarding African Children. The conference was organized in London by a UK based charity, Africans United Against Child Abused (AFRUCA).

The aim of the conference was to mobilize the faith communities against the practice of witchcraft branding by highlighting the negative impact of this phenomenon and the belief in spirit possession on African children in the UK and in Africa.

According to the organisers, ‘The conference will explore the issue of the branding children as witches in all its dimensions looking at different factors underlying the phenomenon, its impact, different policies and strategies to tackle this growing problem. A focus will be put on the importance of religious beliefs given the role the faith organisations can play in enforcing the recommendations that will come out of the conference’.

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Report from the Nigerian Humanist Convention

Slightly overdue, but here is my impression of  the highly stimulating 2011 National Humanist Convention in Nigeria held in Abuja at the beautiful Vines hotel over two days.

The Nigerian Humanist Movement was started by Leo Igwe in 1996. People gave it a short shelf-life and warned Leo he was starting on a fruitless and impossible quest to bring non-religious ideas to a fiercely religious country. 15 years later the organisation is still going and growing and conducting campaigns not just in Nigeria but in other parts of Africa too.

This was my first convention of this sort as was the case for many of the participants. Because of this, the convention played an important role in linking isolated humanists who’d never come face to face with another non-believer. This was evident in the passion and excitement with which people spoke and their desire to express their opinions.

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Oyedepo, Oyakhilome, Ashimolowo, Others Come Under Attack At Humanist Forum in Abuja; Sheila Solarin Urges Nigerian To Fight for A Better Society

Sent to AAI from its Affiliate the Nigerian Humanist Movement. Originally published in Sahara Reporters.

Stupendously wealthy Nigerian Pentecostal preachers and clerics have come under serious attack at the two-day national convention of the   Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM), which ended Saturday afternoon in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

The forum brought together students, children, scholars, government officials, atheists, sceptics, rationalists, agnostics, freethinkers and professionals from different fields to discuss Humanism as the next step in Nigeria.

Declaring open the forum which marked the 15th anniversary of the birth of  the NHM, Leo Igwe, the administrative secretary of the Oyo State –NHM,  told  participants that many people  across  Nigeria and the world  were looking up to them. “Meetings like this should spread message of reason, science and free inquiry, and usher in an era  of positive  and progressive change, hope and light,” he charged.

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Being Pakistani and atheist a dangerous combo, but some ready to brave it

Originally published in Pakistan Today

Members of Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics trying to make their presence known and reach out to others sharing similar beliefs
 
KARACHI - They realise that they belong to a country where apostasy means inviting the risk of death – even if spared by government authorities and courts, a fanatic mob would certainly not.

But they have still chosen to tread a perilous path in their attempt to reach out to other Pakistanis sharing similar beliefs and more importantly, to let the world know they exist. They are a group of Pakistani atheists called the Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics (PAA). They first tried to make their presence known two years back by making a page about their group on Facebook. On August 14 this year, they launched their website www.e-paa.org that was literally an instant hit. It received more than 17,000 hits in just 48 hours after its launch from 95 countries, including Saudi Arabia.
 
How did the idea to bring together Pakistani atheists on a single platform come up? “When I became an atheist, I honestly thought there were no others like me in Pakistan. Through discussions on various social networking groups and forums, I found a few others like me. So we decided to make this group to find out how many more were out there,” says Hazrat NaKhuda, one of the founding members of the group. For obvious reasons, the PAA members go by pseudonyms to protect their identity.

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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.

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Four Killed in Religious Rioting in Nigerian City

JOS, Nigeria (AP) — Authorities say at least four people were killed in a riot in a central Nigerian city that is beset by religious and ethnic tensions.

Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency said the fighting began Monday in Jos after Muslims began praying in a predominantly Christian neighborhood in the city. Officials with a local Muslim group said the unidentified attackers used knives, machetes and bows and arrows.

Witnesses say more than 50 vehicles and 100 motorcycles were set ablaze during the fighting. Army and police moved into the affected neighborhood late Monday.

Jos sits in the Nigeria's "middle belt," where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands and political and economic power. Nigeria is largely divided into a Christian south and Muslim north.

From Dust to Evolution: Bridging Science in Africa Against Traditions

It is almost a year since the Al Shabab militia penetrated the Kenyan borders and caused havoc to international aid organizations. Aside from planting grenades in Eastliegh, they dropped grenades on to children’s playing fields, and many explosions were witnessed in Kenya around this time in 2010. Incidences pile up on the ‘yet to be investigated’ as the government assures its citizens, whereas nothing much is done on that front.

The Al Shabab incidence in Mogadishu consumed four of my relatives and left a huge gap in my family life. I lost people who contributed to my purpose of living. My wife founded and ran the Abu-Bakr Foundation, an organization that was permitted to distribute medical Aid in Somalia and Sudan, and apparently she was blasted in the name of Allah.

Sad memories. But I just recently met some refugees and some of these were Somalis who had benefited in great length from the hand of the Foundation. They were expecting me to have transformed into joining their religious ideologues, leaving the path of those who are astray, for my son had a Muslim name. Mostly so, they expected the magnitude of loss to have influenced my practice into softer relenting. Either I was destined to become a Rasta or some religious icon. But the JAF Festival disappointed many to a great length, and in my inbox, I started receiving questions related to my atheism. For example, where did mankind originate? And my understanding of the phrase, from dust we came and to dust we shall return. They were bothered by my theorem of no afterlife and no day of judgment, and astonishingly warned me thoroughly of misfortunes that could be planted in my path, for I am a disgrace to the African race.

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A Flying Teapot Taking Off, or, Good News from Brazilian Atheism

From the Secular Humanist League of Brazil, an AAI Affiliate Member:
http://flyingteapot.haaan.com/2011/08/10

One year and a half has passed since the foundation of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil, LiHS, the owner of this debuting blog. So many things have happened since then that I am caught in the vertigo of loads of long term memory yet to be consolidated. (And my routine as a rebel sleeper has most certainly something to do with that.)

I remember vividly my dream of taking Brazil and more of Latin America to the global secularist community, especially reaching IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union). Well, we did it! And it happened last week, when our international relations director Daniel Martin traveled from France to Norway (yes, to Oslo, the site of that conservative Christian terrorist attack) to attend the General Assembly in the World Humanist Congress, where we were approved as members of IHEU. Also, before that, LiHS joined the Atheist Alliance International.

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Russian Duma Attempts To Legalize Government-Paid Security for Church Patriarch

Understanding the importance of the protection of the life and safety of all citizens of Russia, including that of the religious leaders in our country, the Good Sense (Zdravomislie) Public Fund has met the news of the upcoming amendments to our secular law with alarm.

The Public Fund Good Sense learned that the government of Russia initiated an amendment in the state Duma of the Russian Federation in the form of bill № 586178­5, containing a clause to expand the list of individuals being protected by government, with taxpayers money, to include an unspecified number of people that do not have any relation to government service or the functioning of the state. Among those listed in the expanded list was the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This bill was apparently created in order to legalize the state security which has been provided for the church Patriarch for many years now without any legal basis.

In relation to this, the Good Sense Foundation addresses an open letter to the President of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, in which we ask him to answer two questions:

1) Will somebody be held accountable for the violation of legal principles that have been going on for a number of years?

2) How does the government’s initiative to support just one out of many religious organizations registered in Russia correspond with the secular nature of our state, as indicated in our national constitution?

The Fund is also addressing a letter to the head of the dedicated Security Committee in the State Duma, Vasiliev V.A, with a request to act out of a sense for public consent in terms of ethnic and religious cross-relations when discussing the bill. We also ask that the Duma keep the secular basis of our national constitution in mind when determining what private Russian citizens should be eligible to receive government-paid security protection.