Nsajigwa I Mwasokwa (Nsajigwa Nsa’sam) founded Jichojipya (meaning with new eye) to “Think Anew”. He is the Founder of Jicho Jipya/Think Anew Tanzania. We have talked before about freethought in Tanzania. Here we talk about Tanzania and non-religion.
My friend from Tanzania and fellow free mind, Nsajigwa I Mwasokwa (Nsajigwa Nsa’sam), took some time in September of 2017 to talk about the life of an atheist in a highly religious country.
A country religious in the raw numbers of those who identify as religious. A highly religious country in the level of religiosity or adherence to the tenets of faith. Often, the continent of Africa, due to colonization and other influences, as with Canada (where I reside), remains permeated in the symbolisms, the language, the holy texts, and figures of Abraham.
Abraham who birthed over half the world’s modern minds. The Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, especially Islam and Christianity, dominate our areas of the world and about half the world’s population if combined.
Not necessarily a more difficult time in life, but a different way in life because a slight or even great, but no doubt different, point of view. I asked about atheism in Tanzania. He said that there have been freethinkers in Tanzania, Canada, and in other periods and places around the world.
“Canadians should know that as it is for every human society throughout ages and generations that there have been within independent thinkers and freethinkers, so too there are such ones in Tanzania, though few, as it has hitherto been,” Nsajigwa said, “There are Tanzanians who think outside of the box of religiosity despite the fact that in Africa religion is overwhelmingly omnipresent and -potent, covering all aspects of life, from the birth point of entrance to death point of exit.”
He described the previous stereotypes about Africans as those who think more emotionally and that the “philosophy of Negritude” is that of the spiritual. He said that this would assert “rational is Greece as emotion is black.”
He points to this as too much of an exaggeration. He did, though, direct attention to the percentages in Africa.
He explained, “In terms of percentage, it is recorded that independent thinkers, individuals living without religion in Tanzania could be up to 1% of the population (the challenge is to make it rise to 10% as there might be enough such ones who however are in the closet).”
As our conversation continued onward, I wanted to know about the thoughts about atheism as a viewpoint from the broader population of Tanzania. He stated that this was viewed as part of socialism of a communist variety such as that found in the USSR and “thus ideological.”
However, he opined, “Tanzanians who are fundamentalist in their religious outlook, they view it negatively, as an arrogant rebellion against God’s will by the few people educated (to become confused) by too much secular book reading. Further extremes view it as for those who are “lost” and on Satan’s side (Satan being the opposite of good God).”
I wanted to know about the commonality of atheism there. He said, “As a movement it is coming up, emerging as is the reality of it all over Africa. Some individual independent thinkers to freethinkers exist.”
Nsajigwa continued that it was only since the new millennium that pioneering efforts have been done to teach philosophy in order to identify and bring atheists and the non-religious together.
Before the internet, as far as he knows and as far as I know, Nsajigwa has been the primary person, akin to Dr. Leo Igwe in Nigeria for humanism, for the advancement of not precisely atheism but more freethinking. He has been doing this, impressively, prior to the internet since the 1990s.
Nsajigwa concluded, “We are developing a fellowship to be a community in the future via Jichojipya – Think Anew as a formal organization and vehicle for that, we founded it to live to achieve common goals of institutionalizing Humanism ideas and ideals guided by Humanist’s Amsterdam Declaration 2002 of which I translated into Swahili that being first time that it was in an African language.Its Humanistic aspects happen to be similar to some aspects of Tanzanian own Arusha declaration doctrine of 1967.”
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