“Man’s inhumanity to man” – some believe that’s the rule, not the exception. I believe the opposite is proven by our everyday experience. It is one of the key things that makes me so fundamentally an optimist. And then there are those singular individuals whose lives ennoble all humanity.
I first encountered Leo Igwe’s name when he posted a comment at this blog’s launching – an unusually long comment about bogus “miracles” in Africa (click here). Frankly at the time I thought this somewhat odd; in retrospect I am grateful and flattered, having learned more about Leo Igwe since. That he took the trouble to post even on my little blog shows his dedication to the cause. The latest issue of Free Inquiry magazine contains a good profile of him (click here).
Leo Igwe is Executive Director of both Nigeria’s Center for Inquiry and its Humanist Movement. If you think American humanists face a lot of obstacles and hostility, just try it in a country like Nigeria. Sectarian atrocities and massacres there have been much in the news. Leo Igwe has experienced his share of personal violence, and abuse of legal processes aimed at shutting him up.
But the trouble with Leo is that he doesn’t accept this stuff as normal, even in Africa; he aspires for Nigeria to embody the highest standards of civilized and rational human behavior. (Thus he is a fierce foe of a cultural relativism that would excuse barbaric practices as not wrong but merely different.)
One of his key battles concerns witchcraft (a subset of the supernatural thinking discussed in his blog post). Witchcraft in Africa is no laughing matter. Over centuries in the West, witches were greatly feared and witchery charges were constantly utilized to persecute unpopular people and nonconformists, many thousands of whom met a horrific death. This still goes on in Nigeria, and Leo Igwe has been in the forefront fighting it, at enormous personal cost and risk. (For more information about this problem, click here.)
This is just one aspect of his crusade for a more rational and just society. Nigeria is a country with shambolic and pervasively corrupt machineries of justice, wherein what should be the forces of law and order are mostly engaged in predation against ordinary people. That Leo Igwe believes he can make a difference here makes him a greater optimist even than me.
As the Free Inquiry article said, “[i]t would be difficult to find a humanist activist with greater courage, determination, and persistence anywhere in the world.”
It is also pointed out that Leo’s efforts are impossible without financial help. Tax-deductible contributions can be made by clicking here.