Humanism and Secularism in Benin
Being an address delivered by Leo Igwe at a seminar on Secularism in Benin (Laicite au Benin) at Codiam, Cotonou, Republic of Benin on July 26 2011
Thank you friends and the good people of Benin. I bring you all greetings from IHEU, its member groups and individual supporters. I thank you for creating time to be here. I call you friends because I believe we are together in this struggle to realize a secular country and a secular continent and a secular world. A secular Africa is long over due. But as you know we cannot have a secular Africa without a secular Benin. So we need to make secularism happen in our life or at least commence the process of making it happen some day.
I believe we are together in this quest for the enthronement of secular and humanist values – reason, science, critical thinking, compassion and cooperation with one another, democracry and human rights.This seminar is convened to underscore these common goals and to explore ways of achieving them.
For all of you in Benin, this important campaign starts here. It starts by making your country a secular republic in principle and in practice. It starts by identifying those programs and policies that frustrate the evolution of a secular society. It starts by working and campaigning to realize those secular promises contained in our constitution and in the various human rights instruments, which this country has signed or ratified, but have continuosly eluded most people over the years. In many cases, the constitutions of African countries say that the states are secular but in practice, they are not. They priviilege one or two religions and discriminate againsttheir citizens on the grouds of religious belief and unbelief.We need to ensure that the money meant to fund public health, public schools and infrastructure is not used to finance religious myths and dogmas.
I want to assure you that we at IHEU are with you, the people of the Republic of Benin, in your struggle against the forces of oppression, exploitation, irrationalism, religious fundamentalism and superstition. These are the forces that have hampered the progress of many societies across the world. These are forces that have held the progress, development and emergence of Africa hostage.
Humanists and secularists need to work together to combat the belief in witchcraft which is causing a lot of problems in Benin and in Africa. Witch hunts ended in Europe centuries ago, but continues to ravage Africa early in this 21st century. Many people across the region continue to blame their problems and misfortune on witches and wizards and other imaginary entities. Many people continue to commit criminal and atrocious acts based on primitive fears and imagined sense of evil and misfortune. Many people across Africa particularly the elderly, women, children and people living with disabilities are suffering and dying as a result of accusations of witchcraft. The time has come for us to work and campaign to end this needless suffering and set our people free so that everybody young and old, male or female, ‘able’ or ‘disabled’ can live a dignified and happy life in this world.
After all, the evidence of another life after death in another world is simply not there. We need to liberate our society from the grip of this religious illusion and the witchcraft mentality that are darkening and destroying the lives and minds of Africans. We need to encourage the spirit of doubt, debate and critical examination of issues.
We need to commence the process of changing the mentality of our people. I know it is difficult. I know it is risky. But I am convinced it is important. I know it will take time for us to achieve it. But we need to start now. We need to start here today in Benin.
For a secular Benin
For a secular Africa
For a secular world