“On we go”: Zambian humanists and atheists look forward to first national meeting – despite moral panic

"I'm a proud humanist" youth conference to be held 18 October in the capital Lusaka

  • post Type / Conferences
  • Date / 3 July 2019

Last month, Young Humanists International awarded a grant to Humanists & Atheists of Zambia to organize a humanist youth conference — the first of its kind in Zambia. The conference, on the theme “I’m a proud humanist”, will be held 18 October. Organizers are working enthusiastically on this long-awaited event, facing down criticism online that the event would “corrupt the morals of Zambian society”.

The Grant

In June, Young Humanists International distributed £16 500 to nine Member Organizations to support projects and activities around the world specifically addressed to young people. Among all organizations awarded there is also Humanists & Atheists of Zambia, a group formed in 2018 with three specific goals: normalizing atheism, spreading humanism, and campaigning for secularism in Zambia.

Thasiyana Mwandila, Vice President of Humanists & Atheists of Zambia

“Zambia is known to be one of the most religious countries in Africa“, says Thasiyana Mwandila, Vice President of Humanists & Atheists of Zambia. “Over 85% of the population is Christian, leaving just a handful of Muslims, Hindus and a tiny fragment of irreligious people.

“We decided to organize this youth conference with the main goal of grouping together young humanists and atheists from around the country and to show them that they are not alone.”

The conference

The conference called “I’m proud humanist” is the first of its kind in Zambia, Organizers have decided to hold it on 18 October in coincidence with the day of National Prayer, Fasting and Reconciliation, a public holiday established in 2015 by President Edgar Lungu “as a sign of the country’s reverence to God and the acknowledgement of his sovereignty.”

On 22 June the organisation issued a press release to announce the conference. Many supporters were excited about the news and started sharing it across Facebook. Also a large national Facebook page called “Zambian Watchdog” (with 700 000 followers) shared the news, garnering hundreds of comments and reactions from Zambians. However, some comments were displeased with the presence of atheists in Zambia.

Response to criticism

One Facebook user tried to call on to the Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs, Hon. Godfridah Sumaili, to stop the event, arguing that Zambia had a Christian constitution and claiming that meetings of atheists would “corrupt the morals of Zambian society”. He said the society should face “the full wrath of the law”.

In fact there is no law under which the meeting would be unlawful, and the constitution protects freedom of belief.

Larry Tepa, President, Humanists & Atheists of Zambia

Larry Tepa, President, Humanists & Atheists of Zambia, comments:

“Such attempts to stop our conference are groundless because, despite the fact that Zambia is constitutionally recognized as a Christian state, the same constitution does recognize the freedom of religion, expression, and assembly of every citizen. Therefore this conference is completely in line with the Zambian constitution.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Humanists International and Young Humanists International for the support and guidance they have given towards this conference. They have gone above and beyond in helping Humanists & Atheists of Zambia make this conference a reality.”

If you are interested in joining the conference, or if you want to follow and support Humanists & Atheists of Zambia, please get in touch with them via their official Facebook page.

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