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.

You Ask, An Atheist Answers

Karl from Indonesian Atheists, an AAI Affiliate, talks to the Jakarta Globe about "You Ask, An Atheist Answers":

Discussions between atheists and theists, or those who believe in the existence of God, are fragile events that rarely, though not impossibly, manage to do anything more than reinforce just how disparate the two factions’ stances are. This profound divergence is evidently true in Indonesia, where the concept of atheism is still seen as remarkably foreign, to put it mildly. 

Stigmas and assumptions about Indonesian atheists often paint them as smart-aleck contrarians with a penchant for hedonistic nihilism who leave the burden of proof to believers. 

To disprove this widespread view, two Indonesian atheists have taken up the call, Karl Karnadi and Virgi Albiant, the latter of which is a pseudonym used by the founder of “Anda Bertanya, Ateis Menjawab” (“You Ask, an Atheist Answers”), an Internet-based forum and community that aims to build a friendly bridge between believers and non-believers. 

Read the full article here.

Witchcraft based violence in Malawi - Margaret Wesele

We are very concerned about Witchcraft based violence in Malawi.  Here is the story that should make you very disturbed. The attached two photos is that of Margaret. One where she is alone and of course on the second photo I am there standing with her.

Margaret Wisele (50) who has her leg chopped off  with a machete because she was accused of witchcraft. This happened on 21st  January 2013. The  local hospital had to finally amputate her on 25th January 2013. This was done at Zomba Hospital.  

She was hacked on 21st Jan 2013 by three boys from her village. She was accused of being a witch. On this day, there was a funeral of a grandson to Margaret`s sister. And the village blamed her for the sudden death. And these three boys picked themselves out of the group at the funeral to go and kill Margaret. Since the incidence in January the local police did not arrest the perpetrators for reasons best known to themselves. 

However, with our influence the perpetrators have now been arrested now. The arrest was made yesterday,  on 18th March 2013-one and half months after the event.  We went to see Margaret on Monday 18th March, 2013 at her village.

We should be buying her walking clutches or artificial leg in the near future. Margaret is well. Except that she feels some pain on her amputated leg sometimes.

Death and Humanist Funerals in Nigeria

On February 9, 2013, the former Chair of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Eze Ebisike died after a brief illness. On March 2, he was buried in his hometown Okpokume, Mpam, Ekwerazu Ahiazu Mbiase in Imo State. Ebisike was an ex-catholic priest and an atheist. He was buried after a short humanist funeral ceremony in the compound. The ceremony was a historic event because it was the first time, in that part of the country that someone who was an atheist was given a non-religious funeral.

Funerals constitute a vital part of the local culture and tradition. Most people attach a lot of importance to rites marking the end of life. Some people plan for their own funerals even though they know they won't be there to celebrate it! People devote time, energy and resources to mourning the dead and paying their last respects.

But like most other aspects of culture, funeral ceremonies have been based on religion and supernaturalism. A funeral is a ‘spiritual’ and godly exercise.

Hence people think that a funeral must be conducted in line with the teachings of one of the traditional religions; Islam or Christianity. They cannot imagine a godless funeral service or a non religious or non theistic way of mourning the dead. This is to be expected given the ubiquity of the theistic cosmological outlook. Most people believe in a god that rewards or punishes people after death. There is a strong belief that death is not the end of life, that death is a kind of transition from this life to the ‘next life’, that there is a heaven and a hell. But humanists do not hold to these beliefs. For humanists, death is the end of life. When people die they decompose just like all other living things. Post mortem life in heaven and hell is viewed at best as a comforting illusion. The evidence for a personal god is simply not there. There has also been no evidence produced for the existence of a soul. And the whole idea of the soul leaving the body is just wishful thinking.

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Catholic dogma kills Irish women

Shame on Ireland’s Catholic Bishops and our cowardly politicians. They could have protected the life of 31-year-old Savita Praveen Halappanavar, who tragically died last month in Galway after doctors denied her the right to abort an unviable foetus during a miscarriage.

Instead, while Savita was dying, the Catholic church was running an immoral propaganda campaign to mislead Irish people into believing that pregnant women will always get the medical care they need in Irish hospitals.

And Irish politicians were yet again refusing to legislate for abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman. They have now repeatedly refused to do this for twenty years, since the Irish courts established this right in the X case.

It took a raped pregnant teenager to establish this right in 1992. It should not have taken the death of a pregnant woman, twenty years later, to remind Irish politicians of their duty to legislate for that right. 

Read the full article here.

Tribute to Sheila Solarin

This tribute to Sheila Solarin, matron of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, was published in The Nation, Nigeria.

On Sunday, October 21, the co-founder of Mayflower School, Sheila Solarin passed away. Sheila like the late husband, Tai Solarin, was an educationist. She devoted her entire life to working and campaigning to improve the quality of education in Nigeria. And through her Mayflower Schools, she provided that high quality education to Nigerian children. I encountered Sheila not so much in her capacity as an educationist but more in her role as the matron of the Nigerian Humanist Movement(NHM). Very few Nigerians know about Sheila’s humanist credentials especially that she continued the tradition left behind by Tai of supporting secular education and also promoting the humanist outlook.

Read the full tribute here.

Passion for Freedom Art Festival, London

One Law for All's 4th Passion for Freedom Art Festival will be held dring 3-10 November 2012 showcasing the work of 40 artists from 20 countries worldwide. The artists will be addressing crucial issues related to freedom and religious laws.

The viewing and festival will be held at UNIT 24 Gallery, 20 Great Guildford Street, London SE1 0FD (Closest Underground station: Southwark).

For more information click here.