Humanists are planning to convene a forum in Owerri, which is the capital of Imo State in Southern Nigeria. The main aim is to provide a platform for people of like mind, humanists and freethinkers, in this part of Nigeria to meet, interact and exchange ideas and views.
The forum will help galvanize the local population towards establishing a state chapter of the Humanist Association of Nigeria (HAN). The primary objective of HAN, which was recently recognized as a legal entity, is to provide a sense of community for non-religious and non-theistic persons in the country.
This forum is important for various reasons. Imo state is predominately Christian. In fact, the state is located in what can rightfully be called the Nigeria's Bible belt. In addition, traditional religious beliefs and practices are still pervasive. Superstition-based abuses are rampant and wreak so much havoc in families and communities. Ritual killings frequently occur in the area. Osu caste discrimination is practiced in various parts of the state. Christian churches have a lot of influence in Imo state. They virtually monopolize the media, local politics and the educational system. In fact, churches, especially the Catholic and the Anglican, determine who governs the state and the bills that could pass or be rejected at the local assemblies. There isn’t a definitive wall separating church and state in the area.
Apparently it can be said of Imo and other states in the region that one cannot openly and publicly oppose the church and succeed politically. So people are wary, and fear criticizing the church publicly or openly challenging its positions on issues such as abortion. Many people do not want to be seen questioning religious teachings and dogmas that darken the society and harm the local population.
However, the situation is beginning to change because critically minded persons are emerging in the state. A wave of intellectual awakening is sweeping across the region. And this humanist forum is an initiative to build on this momentum. This forum will be used to promote public education and enlightenment in the state. It will provide a platform for humanists to interact and discuss contemporary issues.
This humanist initiative will serve as a space for freethinkers to articulate strategies for fostering critical thinking and rational inquiry. The humanist forum will be a mechanism to counter religious extremism and combat ignorance, dogma, and superstitions in the state and beyond. At the moment, there is no fixed date for the convention of the forum. But an inaugural meeting is planned before the end of March.
Prof Dede Konkwo, a lecturer at the Imo State University has volunteered to be the contact person. All who are interested in participating in this forum should contact Prof Konkwo via email at: [email protected] ; Tel 08035774378. According to Prof Konkwo, convening a humanist forum in Imo state is an idea whose time has come!