“Approaches to reducing [global] suffering have traditionally been political or communitarian in nature. However, something has been changing in recent decades; technological development has been accelerating making new approaches to old problems possible.” This is particularly true when it comes to education and training in areas like Africa.
Ray Kurzweil recently made the observation that: “A kid in Africa has access to more information than the President of the United States did 15 years ago.” Since I try to spend at least one month a year in Africa (mostly in Uganda), this quote got me thinking.
For sometime now, humanists have preoccupied themselves with what I call the 'debate of the mind'. Atheists and skeptics have articulated excellent, awakening, enlightening and ground breaking ideas, debating the existence of god, debunking miracles, and questioning dogmas. Humanists have written best selling books. And indeed, some non theists have best selling ideas. But there is a tendency for humanists to focus so much on the debate of the mind or to be contented with the victories they have recorded, forgetting that the debate of the mind is not the entire debate, forgetting that there is another important debate. That is the debate of the heart.
One of the more interesting aspects of the constant media coverage of the latest Ebola outbreak has been watching how developed nations like the United States, Britain, and Canada assume that the entire world is Just Like Them. The Seattle Times had a charming example of this yesterday, with American doctors questioning the CDC guidelines for how to care for an Ebola patient in America. An example of the ignorance on display comes from Tulsa, Oklahoma emergency physician Justin Fairless, who says that health care workers in West African nations…
Nigeria’s notorious witch hunter, Helen Ukpabio, is suing for libel both the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network(WHRIN). In this she is, as in other matters, a repeat offender. All British campaigners for children’s rights, and especially humanists and secularists will not stand for the spread of African Pentacostalist witch hunts to the UK.
“This year alone, there have been 17,000 cases of meningitis in Nigeria, with nearly 1,000 deaths”. It’s a statement that jumped out at me watching a video from this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival by my former University of Michigan Public Health student Utibe Effiong.
If one hates a woman and wants to get rid of her; if a person dislikes particularly an elderly female member of the family and wants to destroy her socially, one of the most effective ways of getting rid of her is accusing her of witchcraft. This is the case in Northern Ghana as in other parts of the African continent.
Thomas Friedman recently filed an editorial from, and about, Madagascar. In a new piece for Salon, we point out the flaws in his thinking – flaws that mirror his shortsighted and trend-infatuated view of the domestic economy.
Is strange behavior due to witchcraft or is it a natural occurrence? Is uncanny attitude a diseased manifestation that can be processed through prayers or an occurrence that can be explained without reference to magic and mysticism? British historian, Ronald Hutton, identified uncanniness as one the characteristics of witchcraft that cuts across all cultures. Witchcraft is an uncanny craft. Witches exhibit strange behavior in course of their occult operations. They employ means that are beyond the ordinary, the normal and the natural to cause misfortune and injury. In Namibia, ‘‘uncanny behavior’’ in a school is causing confusion and fueling accusations of witchcraft. Parents are panicking and are asking the authorities to close down the school.
Today, there is a growing threat of religious fundamentalism in many parts of the globe. Worldly organisations driven by otherworldly agenda are on a rampage-waging ‘holy wars’, killing, maiming, kidnapping, raping in furtherance of their destructive and divine vision of this world. The forces of dark age are trying to push back the tide of enlightenment and intellectual awakening on many fronts.
To most politicians across Africa, separating religion and state presents a very difficult challenge. Secularism is viewed with suspicion, and sometimes with opposition. Many countries across the region have the principle of separation enshrined in their constitutions. But this constitutional principle is hardly translated into reality because of enormous influence of religious establishments on politics and governance.
I must commend the Embassy of the United States in Ghana for its decision to engage Ghana’s Ministry for Chieftaincy and Culture in addressing the human rights abuses in the name of witchcraft. This project is long overdue. The American Embassy is sponsoring a research program on the violations that lead to the banishment of alleged witches to camps in the region. Such a program is a clear example of how the international community can help Africans tackle this cultural scourge, and help make witch hunts history in the region and beyond.
Last Sunday, a 45 year old woman, Christine Jemeli Koech, was accused of witchcraft. A neighbour claimed that Koech, a mother of six had been responsible for her child’s illness. A local mob stormed Koech’s house early in the morning while she was asleep. They murdered her and burnt her body. This gruesome practice of lynching continues in the East African country of Kenya.
‘The woman has been banished’, Hamid, my research assistant called to inform me a few days ago. ‘Which woman?’ I asked. ‘The woman I told you about yesterday’, he said in a tone that sounded prophetic. Hamid is a teacher in a local school in Yendi, the traditional capital of the Dagbon state, as the Dagomba is politically described. He confirms that the belief in witches is very strong among the people of Dagbon despite the widespread profession and practice of Islam.
Lesotho is one of the poorest and most unequal countries in the world. More than half of its population live below the poverty line and the poorest people are the least likely to get the healthcare they need. A quarter of people living in rural areas have to travel more than three hours to reach their nearest heath facility.
just returned from Kpatinga, another village in northern Ghana where alleged witches take refuge. One unique thing about witchcraft belief in Northern Ghana is that there are safe spaces for ‘witches’. A ‘witch’ must not be suffered to die as the scripture says. There are villages that welcome and rehabilitate victims of witchcraft accusations. Kpatinga is one of them. It is around 75 miles from the regional capital, Tamale. The major challenge to anyone visiting the ‘witch’ camp is access. Kpatinga is remotely located. To visit the village from Tamale one must stop over at Gushegu town. The journey from Tamale to Gushegu town is about 3 hours. Apart from the Metro Mass Buses, other commercial buses ply this route three times a day- in the morning, afternoon and evening especially on Gushegu market days. I arrived the bus station shortly before noon. I was told there were no more tickets. I stood there for some time contemplating cancelling the trip. I did not want to arrive Gushegu in the night.
Urge the ending of war these days and you’ll very quickly hear two words: “Hitler” and “Rwanda.” While World War II killed some 70 million people, it’s the killing of some 6 to 10 million (depending on who’s included) that carries the name Holocaust. Never mind that the United States and its allies refused to help those people before the war or to halt the war to save them or to prioritize helping them when the war ended—or even to refrain from letting the Pentagon hire some of their killers. Never mind that saving the Jews didn’t become a purpose for WWII until long after the war was over. Propose eliminating war from the world and your ears will ring with the name that Hillary Clinton calls Vladimir Putin and that John Kerry calls Bashar al Assad.
I want to share with you how an ancient and unique philosophy from Madagascar just might be able to help out some political knuckleheads over in the backwards bureaucracy of Missouri. The scopes monkey trial might be closing in on 90 years behind us, yet the debate over evolution in our schools rages on. Most pathetically, and recently, in good ol' Missouri, USA. Missouri's House Bill 1472, which would essentially require schools to notify parents prior to the teaching of evolution content in the classroom, so that parents could 'opt-out' of their children's education.
The future of civic education may just lie in the past - the deep past that is. Here at the PEAR Lab we are hard at work weaving a new thread within the acclaimed civics curriculum Project Citizen - to enable to students to explore public policy issues through the lens of Big History. Let me briefly review Why we must do this, How we plan to get it done, and finally, What it is looking like.
This year, the PEAR Lab is laser-focused on our on-going search for superorganisms within the schools and classrooms of Toliara, the capital city of Southwestern Madagascar. In my first writing on the subject - it might seem to many readers that my claim is prescriptive; that finding such educational superorganisms represents an unambiguous moral positive. This is far from the case - and as I describe below - ambiguity is really the name of the game in this emerging branch of human ecology.
As I watched the sun set from my balcony last night, a mysteriously booming bass speaker washed the beach in a lively party atmosphere. Local teens had organized an impromptu game of football; naked Malagasy children took turns flipping off each others shoulders into the public waters comprising Toliara’s harbor; and couples in love strolled hand in hand along the rocky shoreline. All simply enjoying the glowing day’s end by sharing this beautiful moment together.
I urge the government of Enugu State to act immediately and prevent the looming epidemic in Nanchi and the surrounding communities. According to an 8 minute video circulating on the internet, miracle seekers are trooping in their hundreds to this village to bath, swim in the so called mystery lake. The video reveals disgusting images of people diving, swimming, bathing and fetching dirty, stinking water from this lake in an apparent quest for miracles. Personally I wonder if this is a ‘miracle quest’ to live or to die.
Jim O’Neill’s high profile prediction on Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey (the “MINTs”) as future economic giants has caused quite a stir in the media. Over the next few weeks IDG Connect will be looking at these countries in a bit more detail. Kathryn Cave investigates Nigeria.
Every year, tens of thousands of international tourists and researchers descend into the wilds of Madagascar in search of the rarest of the rare organisms on earth. Lemurs, lizards, and even lacewings are just some of the hundreds of endemic species making the island a critical global biodiversity hot spot. While I love spending time in the natural lands of the countryside, these are not the important organisms that I am seeking. I am searching for superorganisms.
There is a great problem brewing in Ghana – What to do with all the witches? The government has decided to eradicate witchcraft. The plan is to close down the safe camps where those accused of witchcraft fled to get away from their accusers. The victims are to be sent back to their accusers who will kill them in all likelihood.
The United Nations should use the visit to Ghana of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Ms Gulnara Shahinian to shine international light on the menace of witch hunting in the country and in other parts of sub Saharan Africa. Ms Gulnara Shahinian is scheduled to visit Ghana from 22 to 29 November 2013.
During a recent weekend, I re-watched the movie Blood Diamonds (2007), an advocacy-entertainment movie trying to raise awareness about the problem of natural resources being used to finance horrific African wars. As illustrated in Blood, conflict diamonds were used to finance a civil war in Sierra Leone. While the movie is heavy flawed, the message is still important: the mining and exploitation of natural resources is creating havoc throughout sub-Saharan Africa.