Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Witchcraft and superstition in Africa (a view from Australia)

Yesterday, (23/08/2011)

I heard a broadcast.

Click here for the broadcast

It featured Leo Igwe, I had never heard of the man before. He was introduced as a humanist, and a founder of the Nigerian humanist movement, Nigerian skeptic society. He is also a Director – International Humanist and Ethical Union for West and Central Africa.

Since I didn’t know what a “humanist” was, I looked it up.

“Humanism is the belief that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good..

So now I know what humanist is. Ok, back to Leo Igwe.

He kicked off his introduction with this line

…"My country is deeply religious and we have very little to show for that in terms of progress, development, tolerance and civilised values. Deep religiosity in my country has brought us so much hatred, conflict, division and discrimination…

This is a point of view, I would never have expected someone in a prominent position from Nigeria to ever say, speaking the truth so clearly, unambiguously and addressing issues head-on, without a huge dose of denial of basic facts. Unlike the former foreign minister Ojo Maduekwe, who said “there are no gays in Nigeria”. People of the ilk of Mr Maduekwe , all too often occupy prominent positions in Nigeria. So to hear someone like Mr Igwe speaking was literally a breath of “fresh air”, he didn’t gloss over the gory facts . Anyway, he talked about how religion has been twisted and used to persecute individuals within society based on the idea that they are perceived to be witches or wizards.

Society has been effectively hijacked by religious zealots (from many faiths), that many of politicans whom you would expect to defend the defenseless are rendered impotent, due to them either believing the doctrine pedaled by many Pentecostal churches (in this particular case), or they rely on the followers of Pentecostal churches.

Step in reason, logic, self-responsibility to dispel this mania of superstition that pervades Nigeria and much of sub-Saharan Africa. The skeptics society and humanist society, are slowly changing minds, encouraging people to think for themselves, so hopefully this practice of targeting individuals on account of sorcery will come to an end.

This behaviour is not confined to Nigeria alone.

"Cases of children being accused of witchcraft occur particularly in at least eight countries in west and central Africa: Benin, Gabon, Nigeria, Liberia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)."

Click here

To hear of people like Mr Igwe, shows that the candle of hope still flickers against the odds in Nigeria.

Some other relevant links can be found below.

Belief in Witchcraft in Africa

The religious climate in Nigeria

3 comments:

Anengiyefa said...

Great post CodLiverOil. I too would want to be optimistic, but the reality on the ground is so depressing, optimism fails me. Nigerians are still quoting verses of the Bible as if it were scientific fact, and use those verses as the sole bases for their illogical arguments.

Even the Nigerian educational system seems to rate religion and religious belief higher and above modern rationality and scientific knowledge. The end result is that the country is populated largely by believers in myth and fables, rather than in science. You hear many of them speak and you cannot but wonder whether they're living in the same century as you are..

It will take quite a lot to get the majority of Nigerians thinking in they way that they should. But by then, I think so much would already have been lost and so much damage done, much of it irreparable..

CodLiverOil said...

Anengiyefa, thank you for your feedback.

Agreed, this is a drop in the bucket, but considering the oppressive religious atmoshpere that is everywhere there (in Nigeria that is).

The religious climate in Nigeria

It is indeed amazing, that free-thinkers even exist. Apparently Tai Solarin, and Wole Soyinka are humanists

Maybe with the passage of time, the overbearing influence of religion, will gradually diminish . It might not be in my life time but hopefully it will come. Who knows how this will be achieved..? The sooner the better...

Anengiyefa said...

I think that even The Creator would be insulted when we refuse to utilise the intelligence that we are given, sheepishly accepting and following religious dogma, while failing to think and reason for ourselves.

It is not surprising that real development continues to elude Nigeria. I don't agree with everything that humanists believe, but at least they think and reason, unlike many of the so-called Christians and Muslims..