Tag Archive : Humanist

/ Humanist

Succes – finally

2019-02-01 | Babelfish, Uganda | No Comments

After struggling with slow performing internet connections I now have access. I am in a the MVUU camp in the middle of the Liwonde Nationalpark in Malavi and the internet connection is the fastest I have experienced in this country.

So today I have published another episode of my podcast. In this episode I talk to Max from HALEA Uganda. He tells how he tried out different religions before realising he don’t believe in a god. And we learn how ‘the Secret’ influenced him, how he has been shunned and lost friends, but also how he gives medical support through Rotary.

Find it in your favourite podcast app or on this website. Enjoy.

With more than 120 tribes (& same number of languages) no tribe has majority in Tanzania, the melting pot of migrations. The last tribe migrated to this country less than 200 years ago. Tanzania is even more diverse and complex than the other countries in East Africa – migrations from all over Africa, from India, from Europe, from almost everywhere.

Like the rest of East Africa, Tanzanians are very religious, conservative. The population is equally divided between Christianity, Islam and traditional religions, which means no religion has majority. This makes Tanzania different from the other countries – they had to find a way to live together, co-exist, no matter tribe or religion. They have succeeded in many ways, even though there can be tensions (as an example Zanzibar which is predominantly Muslim would like to be independent). Tanzania is peaceful and you don’t have to worry about security.

Like in the other countries it is difficult to be a non-believer in Tanzania. Family and friends might consider you a devil-worshipper if you openly come out as a non-believer. Like in Kenya Tanzania has a secular constitution including the human rights declaration which protects non-believers even though they might face discrimination in every day life.

There are a small group of freethinkers who try to reach out and find likeminded people in order to build a community. The internet and social media have helped a lot, since almost everybody has access to information online these days. So besides being enthusiastic the freethinkers are optimistic and know things will change slowly, but they will change. Many more non-believers will come out – because they are out there, they just think they are alone. Through the social media they will discover they are not alone in the world, and they will find a place to belong, a community.

Tanzania is also the biggest country – it is 22 times the size of Denmark, 22 (!). It’s huge – with the speed limit being 80 km/hour (down to 50 km/ hour many places) you’ll never manage to visit the whole country. It takes forever to drive from a to b. The traffic police are everywhere, you would be ruined before managing to drive from Arusha to Dar es Salaam.

For a Dane it is difficult to comprehend why they haven’t built highways like in Denmark where the whole country is covered in highways. Our highways have a speed limit of 130 km/ hour which makes it easy to get from one end of our small country to the other in no time. In addition, there is no railways of importance in Tanzania (again in contradiction to Denmark), which means everything must be transported on the same roads – goods, containers, people, schoolkids, cows, goats etc.

Halfway through my journey I have almost adjusted to the African way – which means you must be patient, don’t rush, take you time greeting people in a proper way, a lot of handshakes and talking. It seems like I have adjusted to the hot African weather as well – just arrived in Malawi, it’s 23 degrees & I’m freezing (!).

Halfway through my journey I have visited 4 countries in East Africa – the other half will be spend visiting 4 countries in Southern Africa.

My visit to the cradle of humankind – the Serengeti – made an impact. I think it is an amazing place. I would like to go back some day, and spend at least one week in the Serengeti, sleeping in tents among the wild animals, spending hours looking for them, spending hours staring at them. It’s beautiful, overwhelming, majestic – pictures can never show how it feels to be there.

Goodbye Tanzania & East Africa – hopefully I’ll see you again on the Serengeti – Hakuna Matata

Some facts:

Tanzania (Denmark)

Population:   60 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:   945.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 64/km2 (133/km2)

Life expectancy: 63 years (80 years)

Freedom of opinion & expression

2019-01-23 | Kenya | 1 Comment

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.

Goodbye Kenya – Hakuna matata

2019-01-18 | Babelfish, Kenya | 1 Comment

Karen Blixen

Looking out on the scenery through the shuttle bus window driving from Nairobi to Arusha in Tanzania I’m thinking about my week in Kenya. The horrible attack in Nairobi the other day with 21 lost lives, reminds me of how fragile life is. The people and the fantastic animals remind me of how beautiful life can be in this country. A country with a complicated history, influenced by the whole world.

On one hand Kenya feels very peaceful – the security levels are the same as in the other countries. When you get used to armed security everywhere, the thorough security checks when you enter a mall, a hotel, a bank etc. you stop wondering. Al-Shabab continues to make life unsecure for everybody here. It’s difficult to understand how they cope with the fear continuing living their lives.

On the shuttle bus a group of passengers with unmistakable Indian decent reminds me of the melting pot of different cultures that is Kenya today with more than 42 tribes. Arabs, Europeans, Indians and as the latest addition I see Chinese signs all over the country showing how much China invest in infrastructure – not just here but all over Africa.

The landscape passes by – the flat land surrounding Nairobi turns into green hills and later mountains. I see Masai with their red clothes looking after their cattle and donkeys. It is the first time I have seen donkeys on this trip. The sky is so incredible high with the flat savanna and the green hills and mountains in the background. It makes you feel tiny and insignificant.

It is understandable why Karen Blixen fell in love with this country. I visited her museum with Harrison from the atheist organisation. Fun fact: he had never heard about her, so I taught the Kenyan a bit about Kenyan history. It was amazing to visit her farm, learning more about her life here and how she influenced Kenyan tourism.

It is difficult to be a non-believer in this country. In contradiction to Denmark Kenya has a secular constitution. Legally there is no discrimination, but in reality, the country is very religious, which means everyday life is influenced by religion.

People are very friendly and curious. As a Dane you would never say hi, shake hands and talk to a stranger in the street. After a few days you realize Kenyans mean it, they just want to talk – while you thought they wanted to trick you and get money out of you.

It’s been a week with many experiences, many emotions – highs and lows.

I will end this blog post with some of the highs – I met Harrison, the nicest guy who open his home to me. He is the best-known atheist in the media in Kenya, fighting for equal rights for non-believers. I saw a black rhino for the first time ever, it was amazing, big and a bit scary. And then there was the beautiful lioness, she passed our car not more than half a meter from my face – I’ll never get tired of watching them in the wild.

Have a nice weekend and as they say in Swahili – Hakuna matata

P.S. A new episode of my podcast Babelfish has been released today – check it out

Some facts:

Kenya (Denmark)

Population:  52 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:  580.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 89/km2 (133/km2) Life expectancy:  64 years (80 years)

It’s alive !!!

2019-01-16 | Babelfish, Uganda | No Comments

Finally – the podcast has gone live. The first 3 episodes has been published.

Kato Mukasa

In the first episode I talk to Kato Mukasa who has several roles within the humanist community. Internationally Kato is member of the IHEU Board. He is also involved in coordinating activities in Africa and Uganda. In Uganda Kato is Legal Director for HALEA Uganda, and manager of the Pearl Vocational Training College.

Wasswa Peter Mukasa

In the second episode I talk to Wasswa Peter Mukasa who, besides being Kato’s brother, also is deeply involved in HALEA Uganda.

Viola Namyalo

In the third episode I talk to Viola Namyalo, a young humanist, involved in HALEA Uganda. Just after I left Uganda Viola was elected Chair of the African Working Group of Young Humanists International (YHI). YHI is the youth section of IHEU.


You’ll find podcast in your favourite podcast app: iTunes, Spotify or Stitcher. Or you go to the Babelfish page in the above menu.

I expect to release 1 or 2 episodes per week. Bear with me – English is my second language.

Enjoy.

Goodbye Rwanda

2019-01-12 | Rwanda | 2 Comments

Moto’s with passangers

I must admit facing Rwanda’s past hit me hard. I remember when Sofie and I visited the killing fields in Phnom Penh in Cambodia years ago, the sadness stayed with us for days. I have felt the same this week, the sadness has stayed with me.

Maybe it has cast a shadow on my visit because Rwanda is a nice and friendly place. The capitol Kigali is very different from the chaotic streets of Kampala in Uganda. There is less traffic and the main streets are lined with trees and grass. The buses are bigger and more modern. The boda boda’s are here but are called moto’s – as a passenger it is mandatory to wear a helmet and they respect the traffic lights (in contradiction to Kampala).

Rwanda is called the land of 1.000 hills, which is true – no matter in which direction you look you’ll see green hills. Which also means you walk up and down, up and down, up and down all the time. It was only when visiting the Akegara National Park that I saw flat land.

It’s a beautiful country and they are trying had to improve and change not forgetting their past in the process. Good improvements have been made and foreign investments have returned. Tourists have also discovered the country with its diverse experiences.

But – and there is a but – I have not gotten a decent cup of coffee since I arrived in East Africa. Either it is instant coffee, and you mix it yourself, or it is the weakest coffee you would ever taste – it looks like tea. I mean the grow the stuff and export it all over the world, but they have no idea how to make good coffee. So, I switched to African tea, which is basically milk boiled with tea – much the same as chai.

And on the positive side I’ve gotten good at using moto’s – without fearing for my life and clinging to much on to the driver.

Tomorrow I will fly to Nairobi in Kenya.

Some facts (I include Uganda since I forgot it in my earlier post about leaving Uganda):

Rwanda (Uganda – Denmark)

  • Population: 12.6 mio. (45 mio.  – 5.8 mio.)
  • Area: 26.000 km2 (241.000 km2 – 43.000 km2)
  • Density: 475/km2 (183/km2 – 133/km2)
  • Life expectancy: 68 years (58 years – 80 years)

Always remember, never forget

2019-01-07 | Rwanda | 6 Comments

Wall of names of some of those killed during the genocide

It was friends, neighbours, family who run amok and within 100 days killed 1.000.000 people in 1994 in Rwanda – at that time I was pregnant with Sofie.

Babies, toddlers, children, youngsters, men and women where tortured, raped, molested and killed in the most horrendous ways – slaughtered by machetes, shot, drowned in latrines. It’s hard to believe that the nice and friendly streets of Kigali where I am today was filled with blood and bodies 25 years ago.

Today I visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre where 250.000 people was buried in a mass grave. It has been an emotional day, me crying several times looking at videos with survivors’ testimonials on how they watched their family members get killed, looking at the remains of those killed, seeing a superman bed sheet, one shoe from a child, the countless pictures of victims.

I get tears in my eyes writing this – a special part of the exhibition shows pictures of babies and kids who were killed with notes regarding each of them mentioning their favourite food, favourite sport, favourite song but also their age and how they died.

Devastating. It is difficult to grasp how human beings can turn into monsters who will do horrible things to their friends and families. They lived peacefully together, were married into each other’s families, were godparents to each other’s children.

History shows that genocides doesn’t happen overnight even though it might look like it. It wasn’t the case during the second world war, it wasn’t the case in Rwanda or the Balkans. It begins with an increasing division, an increase in dehumanising other groups (whether it is ethnicity, religion, politics etc.).

Like in Germany and on the Balkans, it was the people in power who planned the genocide. It was carefully planned in order to wipe out the Tutsis. Women were raped by HIV infected men on purpose to destroy future generations. Like the survivors from the genocide the kids from these rapes are traumatised.

Rwanda has done a lot to overcome the collective trauma – rebuilding the country, prosecuted those who planned and those who committed the killings, supporting the survivors. It will take many years, maybe even generations before some of the wounds have healed.

We must never forget how genocides happen – we must never forget that ordinary people can turn into monsters when they are manipulated and feel threatened. Dehumanising other people just because they look different or think different is the first step towards genocide.

I sometimes fear that we are going down this road again – the dehumanisation of those who are slightly different than ourselves. The talk about ‘them and us’ creating distance between – creating the illusion of ‘them’ not being human.

I do not know how we can stop this from ever happening again – but we must insist on trying, keeping our humanity.

Goodbye Uganda

2019-01-06 | Uganda | 2 Comments

Baby gorilla

Today I’m leaving Uganda after two weeks of both hectic activities and idleness – a bit like the everyday life here. The hectic streets of Kampala with thousands of bora boras, hundreds of taxies (i.e. 14-person minivans), street sellers, beggars. The streets buzzing with the sounds of sellers offering chicken on a stick, rolex (an omelette in a ‘pancake’), fried bananas or corn and drivers offering their boda boda or taxi to all who passes by. The smell of the city – the mix of trash, gasoline, food and other undefinable smells.

In contradiction the green green mountains, the national parks and Victoria Lake which offers a tranquillity which is difficult to find elsewhere. You find your self staring into infinity, zooming out, just listening to the sounds around you – the monkeys in the forest, the insects on the savannah or the birds on the lake.

Before I came, I only remembered learning about Idi Amin and the Entebbe kidnapping in school, but it happened many years ago. The country has been peaceful for more than 30 years. Improvements has been made – more children go to school; the economy is better. But there are still many that can’t read, many are poor, the population is deeply religious which means children goes to religious schools. Some places in the country they still believe in which craft. The life expectancy is 55 years (!) – 20 years less than in Denmark.

I have met only kindness and curiosity from the people I have met. They speak English, many very good, are polite and wants to talk. They are also world champions in soup – the best soups I have ever tasted was in the Bwindi mountains. Overall the Ugandan kitchen is great and there is plenty of it.

Ugandans must abide by the weather. If it rains it rains and you must wait it out – it would put a strain on a Danes patience, but you’ll learn. While we were in Mbarara a rainstorm hit Kampala causing large parts of the city to be without power. Trees and large billboards fell cutting down powerlines.

I have experienced so much in such little time it is difficult to describe all of it.

I will miss driving through the country passing village after village with kids shouting ‘muzungu’ (European) and waiving.

I will miss meeting all the great humanists, talking to them about their life, their visions and great work. I admire what they do – it is not easy being a non-believer in a very religious world.

I hope this will not be a goodbye but see you soon

From Voltaire to the Matrix

2019-01-04 | Uganda | 2 Comments

Peter – Viola – Kato

I’ve been a bit busy interviewing 11 humanists in only 3 days. Two of them in another city and the bus ride there took more than 5 hours – each way! I’m a bit exhausted and need some time absorbing all their stories.

But it was worth it meeting Kato, Peter, Viola, Andrew, Don, Ronnie, Max, Manzi, another Peter, Louis and Solomon and it has broadened my mind. They all grew up in a country which was and still is very religious. It cannot more different and far away from my upbringing in Denmark – we are not very religious, and religion is not that big a part of many people’s lives. In school we are taught critical thinking – in Uganda it’s not part of the curriculum.

So, it was fascinating to hear how they despite the lack of teaching in critical thinking at some point in their life started questioning the religious teachings. How they all became more and more aware that they did not believe. How they were inspired – and this is were both Voltaire and the Matrix plays a role as inspirations for both Kato and Louis. You will be able to hear more when I have edited the interviews and published some episodes.

In a country where non-believers are considered to be worshippers of Satan and a lost cause, it takes a lot of courage to openly declare yourself to be a non-believer, a humanist – they have all lost friends, some have been shunned from their families. But they still consider it to be worth all the challenges and the risks, because it is important to create a community for non-believers and to fight for everybody rights to ask questions, be critical thinkers.

I admire their courage.

Happy New Year

2019-01-01 | Uganda | No Comments

University Guest House – Kampala

I said goodbye to Sofie two days ago and has checked in to the University Guest House in Kampala. I will stay here the rest of the week. Tomorrow I will interview the first humanists for the podcasts. Uganda has a thriving humanist community with many organizations for humanists and freethinkers. I look forward to meeting them all.

Looking back at 2018 it has been a crazy year with huge changes in my life – I decided to sell everything I owned (besides my tiny car), my job was moved to another country and my daughter Sofie & her boyfriend Rasmus decided to move to London, luckily it meant that I could sublet their apartment – and finally I decided to take a year off and travel around the world.

Happy New Year to everybody.