Irish Atheists Urge Repeal of Blasphemy Law

Originally published November 4, 2013 by , The Friendly Atheist

Over the weekend, the Convention on the Constitution held meetings in Ireland to discuss changes to the nation’s Constitution and then make recommendations to the government.

Relevant to us is the need to repeal the blasphemy law, which currently states:

The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.

Atheist Ireland has been fighting for the law’s repeal for a while now and the group’s Chairperson Michael Nugent spoke at this weekend’s convention alongside fellow advocates for the law’s repeal, Professor David Nash of Oxford Brookes University and Human Rights Officer of Atheist Ireland Jane Donnelly.

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Australians Protesting State Visit from African Pastor

PROGRESSIVE ATHEISTS (Australia) PROTESTING STATE VISIT FROM EVANGELICAL AFRICAN PASTOR

Pastor Enoch Adeboye is an evangelical pastor from Nigeria who promotes the existence of witches and wizards, resulting in the torture and death of young children and others in Nigeria, the wider African continent, and has also spread into Europe.

Adeboye is the leader of one of the fastest-growing Pentecostal churches in Africa, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, with over 6,000 affiliates and chapters around the world, including the US, Europe, and Asia.  He is planning a 'tour through Australia and other southeast Pacific countries to raise money and plant new churches.

Rev. Adeboye is a controversial pastor who uses the Bible to promote the violent persecution of 'witches' and homosexuals, and who has been linked to a number of riots and assaults where people were attacked by his churchmembers.  With the president of Nigeria as one of his congregants, he has been a powerful force to lobby the Nigerian government to ban same-sex marriage and criminalize homosexuality. He is one of the wealthiest pastors in Nigeria due to his ministry, holding a number of homes as well as private jets among his possessions, despite the vast majority of his parishioners living below the poverty level.

Progressive Atheists, an AAI Australian affiliate, is attempting to publicize the controversy of this pastor and petitioning the Australian government to refuse to grant him a visa to travel through Australia.  AAI is encouraging all Australians to sign the petition and contact your federal representatives to support the ban.  You can also join the Facebook group to publicize this campaign.

 

Quebeqois Support Proposed Secular Charter

47% of Quebecers "Completely Support" proposed Charter of Values, 21% Generally Supportive But Would Like Even Stronger Church-State Separation

Among other things, the proposed charter of values emphasizes the separation between religion and government in Quebec. For instance, public sector workers would not be permitted to wear overt religious symbols while at work under the proposed charter.

According to a report compiled by the government and released today by Bernard Drainville, the architect of the charter, 68 percent of Quebecers are mostly in favour of it (with 47 percent in complete support), while only 18 per cent were mostly against it.

Drainville explained that 47 per cent of Quebecers who participated in the consultation said they completely supported the charter, while 21 per cent said they were in favour of the charter, with modifications.

The most popular modification requested by 21 percent of those who "mostly" supported the proposed charter was to remove the crucifix from the national assembly. The second most popular modification was to revoke the rule of exemption.  These modifications would strengthen the value of church-state separation already enunciated in the charter.

Over 25,000 comments were received by the Parti Québécois on the charter via email and telephone.

Witchcraft Accusation Rages in Northern Ghana

The atmosphere may appear calm and serene, and the people friendly and hospitable. Life in the regional capital, Tamale may not be much of the hustle and bustle one finds at the state capital, Accra or in other capital cities across the region. There is low traffic and the streets are hardly overcrowded except when a new chief is being installed, a political campaign is going on or a top politician is visiting the area.

Still all is not well in the northern region of Ghana because beneath this veneer of calmness and tranquility lurks a vicious, virulent and violent trend- witchcraft accusation.

Northern Ghana is a region charged and enchanted with allegations of witchery, spiritual possession and attack. Witchcraft is at the root of a silent battle,an ongoing  war that has torn apart families and communities, internally displaced many  people, turning them into refugees in their own land. In the past 3 weeks there have been 3 cases of accusation within the regional capital, Tamale, alone. I guess there could be other or more cases. But these are the ones that've come to my notice. Most cases of accusation take place in the rural parts of the region with no accessible roads, power or telephone service. In these remote communities, traditional beliefs and institutions are very strong. Cases of accusation are not reported in the news. They are rarely taken to the police stations, where such stations exist. Except on the highways or border posts, there are virtually no police presence in the rural communities. Most cases of witchcraft accusation are resolved locally and traditionally. By that I mean the matter is taken to the local chief and elders who often refer the issue to a local shrine for confirmation. In some cases they are pressured to banish the accused without a confirmation by a local priest. Sometimes accused persons are forced to flee on their own. Accused persons who are banished are relocated to other communities. But in most cases they are taken to one of the seven ‘safe spaces’ otherwise known as ‘witch’ camps in the region.

This report is based on the three cases of accusation I am currently studying in Tamale metropolis.

In the first case, a middle aged woman, Mateda, was accused of being responsible for the death of a 20 year old seamstress. The seamstress sew some wedding clothes for Mateda’s daughter. But shortly after Mateda paid the seamstres, she took ill and died.The parents of the seamstress said their daughter took ill after drinking some porridge she bought with Mateda's money. They claim she gave their daughter spiritual poison through the money. So they accused Mateda of being behind the death of their daughter.

They reported the matter to the chief and asked him to banish the woman immediately from the community. But the chief declined and instead suggested that the matter be taken to a local shrine for confirmation. But the family of the deceased and a local mob refused and insisted that Mateda be banished right away. In protest they marched to the palace of the paramount chief of Tamale and reported the matter. But he sent them back to the village chief, who insisted that the case be taken to a shrine.

But the angry ‘youths’ started throwing stones at the palace of the village chief and threatened to burn down the building. They broke a window of the palace and a ‘sacred’ pot used in keeping some water for the ancestors to drink when they come visiting at night! The chief invited the police, but before the police convoy arrived, the mob had dispersed. The Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit and the Criminal Investigation Department are currently questioning the suspects. As I was trying to meet and interview the accusers, I was told of another case of accusation that could erupt very soon. An elderly man has been sick for several months and a woman in the neighbourhood is being suspected of being responsible. I was told that if the man died, the ‘youths’ in the area might attack this woman or get her banished from the community. I am trying to nip this accusation in the bud.

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For Indonesian Atheists, a Community of Support Amid Constant Fear

Indonesian Atheists, an AAI Affiliate, began on Facebook in 2008 and has grown to provide a community for non-believers in Indonesia.  The group was profiled in the New York Times on 26 April:

JAKARTA — Karina is an atheist, but her friends jokingly call her “the prophet.” That is because she is helping nurture a community for unbelievers in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, where trumpeting one’s disbelief in God can lead to abuse, ostracism and even prison. 

“It’s very normal for atheists to be paranoid because the environment does not support them,” said Ms. Karina, 26, who uses only one name. But, she said, “in this group people don’t need to be afraid.”

For the full article click here.