The above article 19 is from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It gives all of us the right to say what we think and participate in the public debate.
Last week when I was in Nairobi visiting Harrison Mumia, the president of the Atheists in Kenya, he got fired from his job due to some political tweets. Harrison is probably the most well-known atheist in Kenya, participating in a lot of debates, tweeting and commenting on different subjects.
It is not easy being a non-believer in the very religious East African countries. Most people think you are a devil worshipper or illuminati if you publicly say you don’t believe in one or more gods. People will think you have no morals or ethics, because in their opinion only god (or gods) can tell right from wrong.
Some non-believers get shunned from their family, most loose friends and many know it will affect their chances of getting jobs and establishing a carrier if they openly declare their non-belief. When the humanists in Uganda spoke up for LGBT rights their office was attacked. They even went to Kato’s house (president of HALEA) and burned his car.
And now this – an atheist fired for participating in the public debate. Even in Denmark we have heard stories from civil servants fearing it will affect their job if they express their opinion. We have also seen stories about politicians requiring people to be fired because they disagreed with their opinion.
And these cases in my country Denmark where we are so proud of exercising the freedom of speech – to the extent that some people feel the need to humiliate others instead of keeping a civilised tone in any debate. Even in Denmark the freedom of expression is under pressure if our opinion is in opposition to the powerful people in our country.
A few years ago, the atheists in Kenya registered as an organisation. Some religious groups got upset and successfully pressured the government to revoke the approval. But the step was in violation of Kenya’s constitution, which meant the government lost the following court case and the Atheists in Kenya is now a registered organisation.
Harrison will off course sue his employer for wrongful termination and violation of his right to speak freely. I hope human rights organisations will follow the case closely. We need to protect our right to participate in politics and express our opinions.