Humanist Voices
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Humanist Voices

Conversation with Violine Namyalo — Secretary, IHEYO African Working Group

Image Credit: Violine Namyalo/IHEU.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Was irreligion part of family life growing up?

Violine Namyalo: No, irreligion was not part of my family life growing up. As a child, I grew up with my Grandmother. My Grandmother was a staunch Catholic who even wanted me to be a catholic sister. When I started growing up, I started leaving with my mother, unlike my Grandmother, my mother was a Born-again Christian and I started attending church with her. When she died, I was taken to a Christian orphanage where I stayed for several years. This shows clearly that irreligion was not part of my family life growing up.

Jacobsen: When were you fully aware of humanistic values? When did you become an explicit?

Namyalo: I got to know about humanistic values as a student at Grace Fellowship High School in 2010 through the debates that HALEA always conducted at our school on a weekly basis. These debates had topics that triggered my mind to start reasoning critically about issues I had taken as absolutely true without questioning. I become an explicit humanist in 2012 after reading more about humanism and also getting involved in public debates that HAELA always conducted.

Jacobsen: Who is a humanist hero to you?

Namyalo: My humanist hero is Kato Mukasa. This is because he was the founding chair of the Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity and Accountability (HALEA), a humanist organization that introduced humanism to our school and eventually enabled me to know the meaning of Humanism and I decided to be a humanist. He has been involved in several empowerment projects that have supported especially the girl child and young mothers and through such activities I always see humanism in practice. Currently I am attending a course for Humanist celebrants which is the first of its kind in Africa and it has participants from six African countries. This course is an initiative of Kato Mukasa, Pearl Vocational Training College with support of Humanist celebrants trainers from Scotland, UK and USA.

Jacobsen: What are your favorite books?

Namyalo: Wow, my favorite books include Humanism by Barbra Smoker , Paul Frierre’s Pedagogy Of The Oppressed, A short Course on Humanism by the British Humanist Association and The Dangerous Superstition by Larken Rose to mention but a few. These books greatly shaped my thinking, they confirmed to me that one can be good without a god, and most importantly they clearly explained to me the meaning of humanism and the need to respect people’s rights.

Jacobsen: When you look at the situation in Uganda, what is the state of irreligious compared to religious people?

Namyalo: The exact number is hard to tell partly because irreligious people have never been counted here. However, my general observation shows that the sreligious people take the lion’s share in Uganda’s population and if I estimate, people who claim to be religious are 90% of Uganda’s population.

Jacobsen: What are some major wins for the irreligious in America?

Namyalo: Humanist movements have been able to register their organizations with the government of Uganda and the projects are going on well. We have several humanists schools and active secular movements.

Jacobsen: Where does the history of religion, both modern and ancient, in Uganda stem?

Namyalo: Because Uganda is a multi tribal country, every tribe has got its own culture and every culture has got its own belief system or religion. These belief systems are derived from the social, economic and political organization of each culture. For example the Baganda people of Central Uganda derived their ancient religion from their cultural practices like Farming, Fishing and Hunting. They have a god of the sea, rain and hunting. This shows how the ancient religion was derived from the cultural practices.

The modern religion came with the Christian missionaries in the 1870s and the Arab traders. The Christian missionaries introduced Christianity and the Arab traders introduced Islam.

Jacobsen: Why is religion such a powerful socio-cultural and political force there?

Namyalo: The main reasons as to why religion is a powerful socio-cultural in Uganda are largely because of Illiteracy and Ignorance. This is because Uganda has got a number of illiterate and ignorant people about the science facts together with people without interest in researching on other existing knowledge that debunk the creation stories and miracle stories which have no basis in science.

In addition, the high level of indoctrination is another reason why religion is so powerful in Uganda and throughout the world. In Uganda religion is introduced to people at a tender age, they find it hard to challenge it even when they grow up. This is one of the reasons why some educated people also remain religious. They find it hard to challenge an idea they have been considering true since their childhood.

Finally, we live in a country where poverty and diseases are everywhere without immediate solutions. Too many people find solace and consolation through religion, it at least gives hope however false it can be , religion appears to be providing solutions to several problems afflicting our people and so people seek refugee in churches as a stepping stone to solving their many problems.

Jacobsen: As a Membership Director of HALEA and UHASSO, what are the organizations? What are your tasks and responsibilities?

Namyalo: HALEA and UHASSO are humanists organizations based in Uganda. These organization are charity organizations and they are registered with the government of Uganda and are members of IHEU. I volunteer as a membership director to both UHASSO and HALEA and my job is to see that new members join the humanist movement in Uganda, collect membership fee from members and also to see that members are in good terms with others.

Jacobsen: As the secretary of IHEYO, what are the topics of concern to African humanist youth that come up through IHEYO African Working Group?

Namyalo: The need to put more effort in promoting free thinking.

The need to be a reflection of what a true humanist must be in order to show the world that humanism is a good way of life and that someone can be good without a god.

Jacobsen: What are some hopes for the humanist movement in particular and irreligious movements in general in Uganda?

Namyalo: I see humanism with a great future. Religion is a powerful socio-culture because Ugandans are only ignorant that the church, shrines and mosques are only making money out of them. Once the existing projects (Humanist schools, Humanist Ceremonies and many others) become more successful, Ugandans will be free from the enslavement of religion and become freethinkers, and indeed humanists.

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