“Let’s talk about the African and Asian origins of humanism”, says the Association of Black Humanists

  • post Type / Members and partners
  • Date / 21 April 2021

One of the most common misconceptions about humanism is the idea that the humanist philosophy emerged solely from the West. The Association of Black Humanists, an applicant member of Humanists International, is organizing an online event on 28 April to debunk this misconception and to show the contributions of African and Asian philosophers to the humanist lifestance.

“Africa and Asia may actually yield philosophical ideas that provide a firmer foundation for 21st century humanism”,  says Dr. Julien Biaggini, who on 28 April will be the keynote speaker of “Beyond Western Humanism”, an event organized by the Association of Black Humanists.

There is indeed an ongoing revolution brewing in the world of philosophy (and within the humanist movement itself) as academics and humanists around the world recognise the fundamental contributions of non-Western philosophies in India, China, Africa, and the Arab world too.

Lola Tinubu, one of the founders of the Association of Black Humanists, commented:

“It is a common misconception that Humanism is a set of values or a philosophy emerging from the West. Critics of African Humanists tend to claim that Humanism is a ‘thing’ from the colonial masters. ‘They brought us Christianity. They are now bringing us Humanism’, it is often said.

“Whereas, African traditional worldview is centred more on the human than on Gods or on the supernatural. Yoruba people in the western part of Nigeria have a saying, ‘iwa lesin’, meaning your character is your religion.

“Traditional ‘African Humanism’, like any of the other forms of humanism has the welfare or wellbeing of the human person as its key attribute. Modern African Humanism includes the welfare and the wellbeing of sentient beings and maintenance of a healthy planet.”

Clive Aruede, another founder of the Association of Black Humanists, added:

“Many African societies have adopted the Ubuntu Philosophy to represent African Humanism. Ubuntu means ‘I am, because you are’. Ubuntu is part of the Zulu phrase ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’, meaning that we are human only through the humanity of others.

“It is not God or gods that define us. We define ourselves, our goals, purposes and the meaning we want for our existence.”

Giovanni Gaetani, Membership Engagement Manager at Humanists International, commented:

“The initiative of the Association of Black Humanists is a timely one, because today more than ever it is important to recognize the different voices that contributed to build our global humanist tradition, overcoming a philosophical and cultural prejudice which is all but anachronistic.

“Humanists International looks forward to collaborating with the Association of Black Humanists to raise this global awareness, and invites anyone to contribute to the debate by attending the event on 28 April with Dr. Julian Biaggini.

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