Here’s a press release from the Nigerian Humanist Movement. By the time you read it I’ll be on my way!
On 22-25 September 2011, humanists from across the Federation will be gathering in Abuja for their national convention. This event, to be held at Vines Hotel Durumi will be the first of its kind at the nation’s capital. It promises to be the largest gathering of non-religious people in the history of Nigeria. The convention marks the 15th anniversary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM). Founded in 1996, NHM provides a sense of community to non-religious people who often identify themselves severally as atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, skeptics, rationalist or brights. In the last 15 years, NHM has worked to ensure that the voice of non-believers is heard and that the humanist perspective is brought to bear on issues of national importance. NHM has been the rallying point for those who do not have a religion; those who renounce their religion and those who criticize religions. NHM has provided as social space for all Nigerians who seek to leave meaningful life free from the tyranny of religious, the orthodoxy of superstition, of belief in god or dogma.
In a deeply religious society like Nigeria organizing humanism has not been an easy task. In a country plagued by religious extremism, intolerance and bigotry, promoting humanism could be a dangerous undertaking. This convention will be a celebration of success and survival of the growing non-religious community in the country. Incidentally there are still many Nigerians out there who are humanists but who do not know. Many Nigerians do not understand what humanism means. They do not know that there is an alternative to religion and that humanism is an alternative to religion. Many Nigerian humanists do not know that a humanist group exist for them in the country. This convention will provide a platform to promote public knowledge and understanding of humanism and to strengthen organised humanism in the country.
The theme of the convention is Humanism as the Next Step. For two days humanists and human rights activists will be exploring why humanism is the next step for Nigerians. Participants will discuss different sub themes of interest to humanists and the Nigerian public including tackling religious crisis, realizing a meaningful dialogue among Nigerians of different religions or beliefs, how non-believers are treated in Nigeria, Faith and superstition based human rights abuses, witch hunts, ritual killing and human sacrifice, the rights of religious minorities including humanists etc. This convention will be used to register our humanist solidarity with all like-minded individuals who are suffering and are forced to live in the closet due to religious hostility and antagonism.
At the event we shall pay tribute to all humanists across the country who have, in spite of the risks, spoken out openly and publicly in defence of the humanist outlook. We shall use the platform to remind the government of Nigeria of its duties to protect and defend all Nigerians of different faith and none; to maintain neutrality in matters concerning religion; to stop privileging Christianity and Islam, to guarantee the equal rights of Nigerians despite the religion or belief and to urgently address the recurrent cases of religious crisis and rein in Islamic militants and jihadists who are terrorizing innocent citizens in northern Nigeria.
Prominent scholars, intellectuals, politicians and activists are expected to attend, to make presentations, and to lead and contribute to the debates, discussion and exchange of ideas.