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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