REPORT ON THE LEO IGWE VISIT TO ADELAIDE

This report is the original report as delivered to the CEO of the CSIRO together with articles written by Leo Igwe (some were written in Australia, emailed to West Africa, printed in West Africa, published on web pages, and emailed back to Adelaide. Finally the "Meet Leo Igwe" notice complete with details of the three meetings is posted below.

rmc@adelaiide.on.net

September 3, 2011

08 8255 9508

To Dr Megan Clark:

Chief Executive CSIRO.

REPORT ON THE LEO IGWE SPEAKING TOUR OF AUSTRALIA

Arranged by the CSIRO and the Canberra Skeptics

On the third of March I received an email from Leo Igwe himself telling me of the proposed trip and his desire to meet me in Adelaide. I was delighted as I had known him for 12 years by email and knew all about his campaigns from the reports in iheu.org, his bravery and understanding of rationalist thought.

Soon after a letter came from Laurie Eddie, Convener of the SA Skeptics, giving dates and asking if I could organise a Humanist meeting. Of course I agreed. However the Humanist Society had problems. The existing committee members were old, two had been in Hospital prior to December and I had been under Doctors orders, There were no volunteers to take over the main positions so the AGM on the 13th March decided to close the Society but before the decision was taken it was agreed that I should organise meetings to welcome Leo Igwe.

It was clear to me that the CSIRO and science week would expect large meetings to make their contribution worth while, but our society by itself was only likely to draw about 6 to 10 people, less after the decision to close was accepted. I went to meetings of the Economic

Reform Australia and the Fabian Society and asked would they be interested in a meeting with Leo Igwe? The answer was yes, so I came to the conclusion that the public in general would be interested and I should attempt large meetings rather than a small ones for local members. (Those who said they would come did not in fact turn up.)

In deciding the venue I first tried for a University lecture theater, but those I applied for said we were not suitable and were generally unhelpful. I was not the only one, John Hermann of the ERA has had similar problems. My family had a good evening at the Walkers Arms Smorgasbord so it occurred to me that if we could get an ABC studio, we could time the event so we could eat afterwards. This turned out very well - It was the first time Leo had experienced a smorgasbord. It was of course expensive some would say an extravagance but the Humanist Society donated about half the cost and as I am rarely extravagant I had the means to pay the balance and as I did not expect to be recouped I only charged a gold coin entry which is being donated to Leo.

I knew that many of my members did not go out at night so I picked the Institute Building, centrally located on North Terrace at 1.00 pm. The Thursday meeting was organized by Laurie Eddie. I explored the possibility of holding a church meeting knowing some Christians who did not believe in witches. However the Pilgrim Church politely said no and My brother, the Rev. Peter Clifford, retired Anglican also said no, pointing out that the Church believed in the Devil, therefore witches were possible. I then turned my attention to publicity.

I prepared a meeting notice, (attached) got it approved by Laurie Eddie. We had email contact with Leo and he sent us texts as to how he would vary his talk at each meeting. He also sent pictures for projecting. I found out that Laurie Eddie was an expert with projection software and had good projecting equipment. I was happy to hand over to him. The meeting notice said "reservations essential" in order to warn me of any over booking. However only about 20 responded. So the last weeks notice said "plenty of room, no need to book, just come!"

Noticing that no mention had been made on the Humanist List I put in an entry giving Leo’s itinerary and suggested interstate members should contact their local skeptics society.

Some 6 weeks before the meetings I sent a message to Phillip Adams, suggesting he would like to interview Leo, and again on the 22nd August, Philip replied saying it had been fixed and would be on air in a couple of days. The interview was very good. Of course many others could have sent a message to Phillip.

Most of my advertising was done by sending emails to many associations, University Professors, Student unions, African associations, and CSIRO staff in Adelaide. etc. I also sent a letter to every State and Federal MP in South Australia, receiving many apologies. (The only one who agreed to come fell sick on the day)

For the meeting I prepared a couple of leaflets, one being "An attack on my Family" by Leo Igwe and the other was sent by Leo from Canberra and returned by web page from the "Punch" Nigeria. (Copies attached) and were distributed to all present at the meetings.

The talks themselves were everything I had expected. Leo spoke well, his English was good, his delivery was varied, with appropriate light and shade, and in a very short time we all felt he was our friend, very easy to get on with.

The attendance at the meeting was downright poor. There was about 24 at the Tuesday, 18 at the Wednesday and possibly about 10 on the Thursday. These figures include the speaker and myself. The CSIRO should consider if the money spent on air fares was worth while for such small audiences and if they could have used their publicity facilities to improve these figures.

I have noticed a number of speakers recently making the case for scientists to come out and explain the scientific approach and method to the general public. A recent one specifically referred to the CSIRO scientists. However it is very difficult to write to the CSIRO in Adelaide as no reply is ever received. I can only assume that their policy is to stick to their science and anything else is rejected. I did get one reply from CSIRO Canberra, saying that no, there were no facilities in Adelaide for the CSIRO to hire out a room for meetings. A very negative response. I would suggest that in any future event of this kind steps should be taken for all local events information be forwarded to the central body to be incorporated in a national advertisement and put on a central web page.

However I am confidant that the audiences enjoyed the lectures and found their attendance was well worth while.

Dick Clifford

Vice President

Humanist Society of South Australia


Leaving religion and living without religion

SIR: Nigeria is often described as a deeply religious society where most if not all persons profess religious beliefs without qualification. Nigeria is often portrayed as a country where the religious demography is static- everybody is religious, everybody belongs to one faith or the other. Everybody professes religion, nobody renounces religion. Nobody is critical or sceptical of religious dogmas. Non religious and freethinking Nigerians are so insignificant. This is a misrepresentation of the religious demography and dynamics in the country. The time has come for us to rectify this misrepresentation.

No doubt, most Nigerians profess belief in God and identify themselves with one of the three main faiths- Traditional religion, Christianity and Islam. But there are many Nigerians who profess minority faiths and spiritualities or some forms of religious syncretism embracing elements of more than one religion.

Generally, in Nigeria there is a lot of social pressure on individuals to be religious and to remain religious from cradle to the grave. Remove this social and political pressure on Nigerians and the religious dynamics will radically change.

A very important and largely ignored aspect of Nigeria’s religious demography is the non believing folk. These are those who renounce their ‘family religion’. They see no existential value or meaning in the religion which they were born into. They live their lives without professing a belief in God, without belonging to any religion. They are called humanists, atheists and freethinkers. They exist in Nigeria. They live in Nigeria. But anyone who understands the intensive religious upbringing and bombardment every Nigerian child goes through will understand why most non religious people are in the closets.

So Nigerians are made to believe that professing religion is a must- and not a matter of choice. Hence so many Nigerians who were born into one religion or the other and who grow up to question, challenge or reject religious myths and superstition cannot express their thoughts and sentiments openly in the public. Many Nigerians are non believers in private and believers in public. They leave religion and live without religion but still remain in the closet.

Unlike religious folks, non believers do not want to be murdered or ‘martyred’ because the so called afterlife, which believers imagine they will inherit in the hereafter, is an illusion. In our families and communities, there is a heavy price on leaving religion and in living without religion. Those who renounce their faith in God are hated, persecuted and discriminated against. They are treated as enemies of the society. They are ostracized. In some communities those who openly denounced their faith can be murdered in cool blood otherwise the person loses the support, sympathy and solidarity of the family and community including the government. So because of the risks involved many Nigerians who leave religion or live without religion do not want to openly admit it.

Until believers abandon force, intimidation, violence and persecution of those who leave religion or live without religion, religious statistics will remain false and artificial.

Still there are Nigerians who have taken the bull by the horn. They have, in spite of the risks involved, openly denounced or rejected the faith of their fathers and confirmed their non religious identity. Names that easily come to mind are Tai Solarin and Wole Soyinka. But they are not the only Nigerians who have said farewell to religion. There are many freethinking non religious individuals out there in our schools, colleges and universities, in the rural and urban areas. They are living rational faithless life are doctors and nurses, teachers and students, carpenters, tailors, drivers and mechanics, wives and mothers, brothers and sisters, husbands and fathers. They may not be as organized as our religious folks but the fact is that they are, and are going about their lives in a rational, ethical and lawful manner.

The time has come for use to acknowledge the non religious dynamics in our society. The time has come for us to recognize that there are Nigerians who have left religion and are living a happy and meaningful life like other human beings.

• Leo Igwe

Ibadan.


 

An Attack on my Family

Leo Igwe

Around midnight of Wednesday August 4 2010,two gunmen invaded my family house in Mbaise in Imo state in Southern Nigeria . They shot twice in the air and my other fainted. They later descended on my aging father and started beating him. They blindfolded him with a piece of cloth and hit him several times with stones.

He later fainted and the hoodlums ransacked the whole house and made away with whatever they found valuable. My father bled from the right eye, nose and mouth. He had bruises on his head, hands, legs and chest. After the attack, some neighbours came and rushed him to a nearby hospital. From there, I moved him to an eye hospital in Lagos where the doctor confirmed that he had extensive injuries in the right eye and recommended that it be removed. Yesterday, August 11, 2010, he underwent a surgery and the right eye was removed. He is currently recuperating at the hospital. I called the police to inform them. And they said I should send a formal petition .

This attack is the latest in the vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation of me and my family members by state and non state actors for our efforts to bring to justice a 50 year old man, Edward Uwa who raped a 10 year old girl Daberechi, in my community. Since 2007, Edward and his associate, Ethelbert Ugwu have brought several police and court actions against me, my family members and our witnesses including Daberechi’s father. They have brought many fictitious allegations against us. In January, they brought police officers and soldiers and arrested me and my father for murder. In 2008 Ethelbert Ugwu brought some soldiers who who arrested brutalized and detained my two brother at a local police in Ahiazu.

Unfortunately, the authorities in Nigeria are not helping matters. They have refused taking appropriate actions against Edward and Ethelbert. The police and judicial systems are corrupt, inept and ineffective. Police officers are only interested in making money from petitions, not in fighting or preventing crimes. And the court system is slow and expensive. So in Nigeria police and court actions are used by criminally minded people to harass and intimidate others, and block access to justice particularly for the poor and less privileged.

The local police stations in Ahiazu and Umuahia have refused arraigning Edward and Ethelbert for misinforming the police. The police in Zone 9 have yet to publish the outcome of the investigation of the murder charge brought by Ethelbert Ugwu and Edward Uwa for which they arrested me in January. Right now the prosecution of Edward for indecent assault is stalled because the Assistant Inspector General of Police in Umuahia, Abubakar Ringim has refused releasing the case file to Imo state prosecutor despite several applications to that respect. The state prosecutor decided to take over the prosecution after Ethelbert Ugwu got a fraudulent fiat through a local lawyer to take over the case. The police prosecutor is no longer coming to the court and the local magistrate has threatened to strike out the case in October. Ethelbert and Edward have filed five civil suits against me, my family members and witnesses. In March, the court ruled against us in one of the suits brought by Edward for police harassment because the police did not appear in court. We are currently appealing the ruling. Since 2007 members of my family and other innocent people in my community have suffered and endured attacks, harassment and intimidation by Edward, Ethelbert and their police, soldiers and thugs.

And the state authorities have done little or nothing to address the situation.

WHAT WE CAN DO

These issues must be raised with the Nigerian authorities at the highest level. They should be kept on the front burner of international relations and human rights advocacy until the Nigerian authorities take appropriate actions. The Nigerian government must be made to understand that the international community is aware of the facts of this case. And that the world is outraged at the way they are handling it. The human rights community should join hands with the IHEU in bringing this disturbing trend to the attention of the world.

Leo Igwe is the Secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and the IHEU representative in West Africa

For more information see iheu.org


 

Witch Hunts and the New Dark Age in Africa

Witches and sorcerers are the most hated people in their community. Even to this day there are places and occasions when they are beaten to death by the rest of the people.

So the witch hunt is not a recent development in Africa. Belief in witchcraft constitutes part of the traditional religion and the witch hunt is a form of traditional religious expression. Witch hunting is as old as the belief in witchcraft in Africa. The persecution of alleged witches has been going on in Africa from before its contact with the ‘outside world’ – the West, the East, the advent of colonialism, modern education, Christianity or Islam. Early Christian missionaries regarded witchcraft accusations as a form of African ‘pagan fetish practice’ that would eventually be replaced by the ‘civilizing mission of christianity’. The colonial authorities also tried to eradicate witch hunts. They criminalized witchcraft accusation. They made it a crime for anybody to brand someone a witch or identify himself as a witch or a wizard. This legislation popularly known as the Witchcraft Act was adopted by many African countries after independence.

But the efforts by colonialists and western missionaries to tackle the problem only drove the practice of witchcraft accusation and witch hunting underground, because these measures did not really address the fears and misconceptions that informed the belief in the existence of witches, and the practice of witch hunting.

So, the end of colonialism and the realization of self-rule by African countries opened the political and religious space for people to express themselves. Hence the African region has witnessed an eruption of witchcraft accusation and witch hunting by state and non-state agents including churches. In fact the wave of witch hunting sweeping across many parts of Africa is driven by Christianity.

Witch hunting is a clear indication of political and judicial failure.

In Ivory Coast and Central African Republic, witchcraft was criminalized, and to this day accused persons are sent to jail by judges. In Nigeria, Congo DRC and Central Africa, many children accused of witchcraft are beaten, killed, abandoned or exiled from their homes. They are subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment by pastors, churches and spiritual homes in the name of exorcism. In Malawi, women accused of witchcraft are tortured and maltreated. Some of them are prosecuted, convicted based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence. They are sent to jail for committing ‘imaginary crimes’. At least 50 women are languishing in prisons across Malawi for witchcraft-related offences.

In some parts of Africa, women alleged to be witches who survive attacks by the mob take refuge in camps. Some witch camps currently exist in Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. In Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, women accused of witchcraft are attacked and lynched. In Gambia, at least one thousand alleged witches were arrested and tortured by state security agents following the death of a relation of President Yahya Jammeh who was allegedly killed through witchcraft. In Tanzania, Burundi and Nigeria albinos have been targeted and killed by those who believe their skin can be used to prepare potent magical concoctions. In Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique, those alleged to be witches are persecuted and murdered.

Witch hunting continues to ravage Africa due to lack of political and judicial will to address the problem. Many African governments are perpetrating, aiding or abetting the persecution and cleansing of alleged witches. Many states in Africa continue to turn a blind eye as such atrocities are being perpetrated by non-state agents like churches, witch doctors, mobs, thugs and religious fanatics and the like. Many states are denying that such horrific abuses take place. Actually the authorities do not see anything criminal in witchcraft related abuses because they believe that witchcraft is a potent way of harming somebody and do not want to engage in any form of ‘spiritual warfare’.

Until recently the government in my country has been in denial of the problem. Thanks to the efforts of Stepping Stones Nigeria and its local and international partners, the government of Akwa Ibom outlawed child witch stigmatization. Apart from this recent legislation, in Nigeria, witchcraft accusation is a crime punishable under the law. Still witchcraft accusations abound. Witchcraft accusers and witch hunters like Helen Ukpabio and other evangelical throwbacks get away with their crimes. Despite so many cases of child and adult victims of witch hunts, nobody has been convicted of this offence to date. But it is not all gloom and doom. Efforts are being made by skeptic activists, groups and their partners to address the problem. And those efforts are yielding results. In fact efforts are underway in countries like Nigeria, Benin, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana etc to tackle the cultural scourge.

We are using a three prong strategy to address the problem. First we pressure the governments to stop persecuting alleged witches and wizards (in Gambia), enforce the witchcraft act (in Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi), decriminalize witchcraft (in Central African Republic and Ivory Coast). We also campaign against moves to criminalize witchcraft(Malawi) and lobby the government to protect the rights of victims (Nigeria, Ghana, Congo DRC, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic,Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania etc)

We liaise with local governmental and non-governmental agencies to provide safe spaces for victims. And this includes securing the release of those imprisoned and appealing the court ruling and getting the judgement quashed (Malawi). We also get child victims into shelters where they can receive proper care and support (Nigeria).

We are also embarking on public education programs to get people to realize that witchcraft is a myth or superstition, and that witchcraft lacks any basis in reason, science and common sense. We organise seminars in schools, colleges and universities and distribute awareness materials to people in the markets, parks, and public squares. We try to let people know the role of fiction, fantasy and imagination in human perception, explanation and interpretation of phenomena.

A very vital aspect of our enlightenment campaign is the skeptical challenge. Renowned skeptics like James Randi have used this facility to clip the wings of purveyors of paranormal and superstitious nonsense. We challenge believers or practitioners of witchcraft to provide evidence, proof or demonstration of the alleged powers and claims associated with witchcraft. In Malawi the skeptic activist Geogr Thindwa has challenged all the witch doctors in the country to bewitch him and collect some huge sum of money but nobody has come forward. To those who claim that people can be initiated into the witchcraft coven or guild, we challenge them to initiate us. To those who claim that people can contract witchcraft  through eating biscuits or peanuts, we buy biscuits and openly challenge them to infect us with witchcraft. To those who claim people do turn or can turn to animals and insects we challenge them to prove their magic. In Malawi we challenge those who believe witches fly magic planes at night to show and demonstrate that this so called magic plane can fly one meter above the ground. Unlike the recently invented flying cars which you can actually picture flying, Malawi’s magic planes are always on the ground. We encourage people to question received knowledge and tradition and test claims. We strive to get people to understand the importance of seeking evidence and basing our knowledge, accusations and positions on evidence, demonstrable evidence.

Leo Igwe sent this piece from Canberra in Australia.


 

Meet Leo Igwe from Nigeria, he has been awarded a speaking tour of Australia by the CSIRO and the Canberra Skeptics thanks to a grant from Science Week. He is well known as a fighter for Justice and for his campaigns against witchcraft accusers, incurring the wrath and assaults from priestess Helen Ukpabio's mob, and arrest by the police but he continues to rescue children accused of witch craft and holds meetings and seminars against superstition.


ADELAIDE MEETINGS   (If you are interstate ask your local Skeptics Society)


Tuesday 30th August 5.30 for 6 pm. ABC, Studio 520, 85 North East Road, Collinswood. Bus Stop 13, routes 271, 273 (from stop E2 Currie Street), Routes 204 205 (F) 206 (F) 208 209 (F) (from King William St.) Parking in Rosetta St. opposite ABC main Building.  
Studio Entrance at Cnr of Gallway Ave. & N.E. Rd.  Gold coin entry.  You may register by Email to leoigwetour@internode.on.net or by phone 8255 9508 stating your name, return address, (email or phone), which day you are attending, and how many are in your party. Seats are available, no longer essential to book, Just come! Be early for the best seats! Note: Elderly citizens should claim a ground floor seat. do not climb to the balcony. Meeting closes 7.30 pm.

After the meeting you can attend a dinner across the street at the Walkers Arms smorgasbord, 7.30 session, but you must book separately, 8344 8022 When booking with Walkers Arms say "with Leo Igwe group" The dinner costs $25.90 + 10% gst +drinks. Those with a pensioners card can claim 10% discount.


Wednesday 31st August 12.30 for 1.00 pm. Hetzel Theatre, Institute Building, cnr Kintore Ave & North Terrace. Adelaide. Access by bus, tram and train. Parking possible but difficult in Victoria Terrace.  Gold Coin Entry.  You may register by phone 8255 9508 or by Email. leoigwetour@internode.on.net stating your name, return address, which day you are attending, and how many are in your party. Seats are available, no longer essential to book, just come! Be early for the best seats!


Thursday 1st September 7.00 pm. Effective Living Centre 26 King William Road , Wayville Access by bus. route 200, 200B, or 200C. Alight at bus stop 2 - hall is located 100 metres south of bus stop on western side of King William Road. Doors open 6.30 pm.
$5.00 entry. Please book at laurieeddie@adam.com.au

 Leo Igwe founded the Nigerian Humanist Movement and the Skeptical Society in Nigeria. He is now the representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union in West Africa and South Africa. Rescuing children who have been accused of witchcraft and thrown out into the streets is highly dangerous, he and his family have been bashed up, arrested by the police, meetings disrupted, but he has retained a rational and understanding outlook.

You and your friends are invited to attend any or all of these meetings. To help you decide which one, Leo will vary his talks as follows:

Tuesday 30th August at 6.00 pm; ABC Auditorium, Collinswood. Studio 520

"Every year, thousands of children are accused of witchcraft, and then abused, abandoned, thrown out of their homes in Akwa Ibom state. These children are forced to roam or live on the streets, markets, public or abandoned buildings. Witchcraft beliefs are widespread throughout Africa.
I will review the causes of belief in superstition, the state of the law and the practice of the police, the failure of education, and the effect of poverty. Indicating the many actions that have been taken to reduce belief in witches in the past and future trends."

Wednesday 31st August at 1.00 pm; Hetzel Theatre, Kintore Ave. & North Terrace

"Belief in Witchcraft is causing so many problems in Africa , for Africans and for the world at large. Humanists in some African countries are working and campaigning vigorously to address this cultural scourge.
My presentation focuses on these problems and the situations in different countries and what humanists are doing to tackle them. I will also discuss why humanism presents the variable framework for Africans to make witch hunt history in this 21st century."

Fighting Superstition in Africa

Thursday 1st September at 7.00 pm. Effective Living Centre "

Africa is a deeply superstitious society. Belief informed by fear and ignorance permeate all aspects of Africa life, thought and culture. These beliefs are causing so much darkness and destruction in the region.
My presentation will highlight some of these superstitious beliefs and practices and how they are hampering Africa 's growth, development and emergence. I will discuss the battle being waged by skeptics in Africa against the forces of superstition dogma and ignorance."


Enquiries: Laurie Eddie 8272 5881,       Dick Clifford 8255 9508

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