It has become pertinent to draw the attention of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to the risks and challenges that people who renounce religion face in the country. It may interest the officers of the CAN to know that these risks are mainly as a result of what christians do and could do to those who renounce their religion, in this case, Christianity. To mitigate these dangers, there is a need to begin a conversation with all religious establishments. And the CAN is an important voice in this respect. The association must be involved in tackling abuses that are related to religious faith and in dispelling the fears and anxieties that are associated with apostasy.
Ex-Christians face persecutions in various places across the country. Christian family members are often behind these abuses and maltreatment. While many people across the country are born into the christian faith, some people at some point stop believing in the Christian god and in fact in any god at all; they stop subscribing to the Christian belief system. These individuals are threatened, harassed ostracised or have their financial support severed. Christians demonize and satanize non-believers blaming them for whatever goes wrong in their communities. Many non-believing persons cannot openly and publicly identify as non-believers because their Christian bosses could sack them. Apostates are denied political posts and positions due to their unbelief.
This misperception and misrepresentation of atheists and humanists are mainly due to the indoctrination that goes on in churches, and due to the preachings and sermons of pastors, priests, and bishops. As a routine, Christian clerics literally incite hatred and violence against non-believers. The persecution of atheists and freethinkers, the pathological hatred for unbelievers, will not end in this country until the Christian churches stop sanctioning and sanctifying the persecution of atheists. The violence against non-believers will not end until Nigerians of all faiths and none are treated with dignity and respect. And religious privilege is abolished.
Furthermore, it is important to inform the CAN about the witch hunting campaigns that Christian churches and clerics are waging across the country. Unfortunately, Christianity is once again at the forefront of a vicious campaign against suspected witches. Thousand and tens of thousands of women, children and elderly persons have suffered death or abuses due to the criminal silence and complicity of the Christian establishment in the country. The CAN needs to take a very strong stand against the persecution of witches in Nigeria. It should call to order, sanction and penalize churches such as the Liberty Gospel Church, The Synagogue of All Nations, Fr Mbaka’s Catholic Church Adoration Ministry and other charismatic and pentecostal clerics who are prosecuting this campaign of violence and abuse. Just as the western Christianity grappled and eventually overcame witch hunting in early modern Europe, Nigerian Christianity must rise to the challenge of eradicating contemporary manifestations of witch persecution.
Even though atheists and the Christian establishment actually disagree on issues relating to god, revelation, and afterlife, we need to explore ways of working together. While we will continue to debate and critically examine each other’s claims, teachings, and positions, it is important to initiate discussions and dialogue on those issues such as the separation of religion and state, freedom of religion or belief, the rights of religious and sexual minorities, the equality of individuals of all faiths and none and the need to combat all abuses that are perpetrated in the name of religion or superstition. To this end, the Humanist Association is inviting the CAN to join in campaigning against religion-motivated violence in the country. Such a partnership is needed in order to realize a society where individuals can freely embrace or renounce religion, question and criticize religious claims.
Leo Igwe is a human rights activist and the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement. He was the Western and Southern African representative to IHEU, the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.