My Road to the Humanist Conference in Accra, Ghana

On Friday 23 Nov 2012, the first ever humanist conference takes place in Ghana. The organizer is the newly founded Ghana Humanists, a group I keenly follow on Facebook as I most definitely am a humanist or a freethinker. I also agree with one of the key speakers at the event, Nigerian skeptic Leo Igwe, that certain beliefs in Ghana – like witchcraft – are hurting people and need to be questioned.

I remember moving to Ghana and suddenly being under an immense pressure to go to church, praise God and believe! Quickly, I adopted a strategy that involved never speaking about my non-faith, throwing in some “Thank God!”, “By the grace” and “Insh’Allah!” in my daily speech and agreeing to visiting people’s places of worship (also I was curious, like most humanists!). If asked directly, I’d say I was a Lutheran – as The Church of Sweden is Lutheran – and I felt I wasn’t exactly lying, even though strictly speaking church and state were separated in year 2000.

It was such a relief, when I decided to speak up. It started when I began teaching and a student one day asked me about my faith. I just couldn’t say I was a Lutheran to someone I was going to teach. It didn’t feel right to hide who I was when I was telling my students to be proud of who they were. Although reluctantly at first, I now take the debate on issues relating to faith, especially with my students and particularly when it comes to dogmatic instructions of not asking, not questioning, not even for a second doubting.

One on one, I have talked about in depth why I can’t “give it to God”. In larger groups, I have initiated debate by for instance showing the film the Witches of Gambaga at the university where I teach and moderated the ensuing discussion. A freethinker’s club has recently been formed on campus and even though it is a small group and the Christian and Muslim groups have many more members, I still think its a great step to illustrate the diversity: Not everyone in Ghana is religious.

If you are interested in attending the conference follow the instructions here.

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Migrants and Human Rights – Tribunal 12 in Ghana?

Yesterday, I got the question if I can help set up a live broadcast of Tribunal 12 in Ghana. So I asked myself, What is Tribunal 12? This is what I found on their website.

Date: 12 May, 2012

Location: Sergels torg & Kulturhuset in Stockholm and all over Europe. (And maybe Ghana! My comment.)

People who flee to Europe are often met with disbelief and suspicion. Many are directly deported at the borders, despite risking their lives. Others are held up in prison-like detention centres lacking basic human rights. Once inside Europe, people are subjected to lengthy and complex asylum processes, often without legal advice. The vast majority of asylum applications are rejected, forcing people to return to extreme dangers. In order to survive, many choose to live hidden without any legal rights.

At Tribunal 12, Europe will be held accountable for these failures.

Inspired by the International War Crimes Tribunal that was formed by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre in 1967, Tribunal 12 sets out to locate the moral, legal and political responsibilities as well as call for a change within the system.

Reading on, the practicalities of the tribunal is that it will all take place in one day, including the ruling of an expert jury. Four sessions (“border control, the asylum process, undocumented migrants, and detention & deportation”) will be held where a prosecutor presents evidence. Drama and art, personal stories and expert witnesses will all be part of the evidence. The program is backed by, among others, The Swedish Forum for Human Rights and Swedish National theatre, Riksteatern.

I find it very useful to question the current treatment of international migrants. And in such a creative way too. Here in Ghana, we often poke fun of what Ghanaian travelers will face at airports when traveling (“watch out for the rubber glove!”, “don’t forget to bring all your used passports for…well, for what really?!” etc). That is, traveling WITH THE CORRECT PAPERS. Not migrating. Not fleeing.

Also, it seems very cool (if I can use such a word in such a serious context) to do something with the inspiration of Russell and Sartre – read more on the Russell-tribunal here. I like!

So, watch this space as I will try and figure out where and how we can take this live event to Ghana. Comment below if you want to be a part of it!
Pic borrowed from Tribunal 12.

This post is a belated Monday Migration post.


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Mental Health in Ghana: Autistic Workers at Obama Biscuits

Through a comment on my recent post on mental health in Ghana, I was informed about this initiative where the organization Autistic Awareness Care and Training Centre (AACT) in Accra have organized a training program for grown ups with autism with the biscuit factory Obama (!) biscuits.

Read Robin Pierro’s informative text in full here from the Canadian organization Journalists for Human Rights and see the video she put together above.

This private initiative provides hope for the mental health situation in Ghana, but where is the Ghanaian state?

Thanks Wim for the link!

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