Note: I had nearly finished this post when the death of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was reported.
By taking odd jobs, like cleaning and washing clothes, Micheal Mpagi earns his living. His true life’s work: to help rid his society of theocracy and religious bigotry.
Micheal Mpagi is President of the Atheist Association of Uganda (AAU).
Mpagi wants to challenge the theocratic elements in Ugandan politics. He started AAU because Uganda’s older (and still extant) atheist organization, Freethought Kampala, is basically apolitical (he is still a member). In an email, Mpagi told me “AAU is more [concerned with] public policies and how theocracy is swiftly becoming the foundation of our government.”
In an email to Atheist Alliance International, Mpagi wrote:
This is going to be a long road for atheists and humanists. Most atheists take a purely philosophical approach to religion with too little emphasis on promoting human rights and democracy. And that’s probably because human rights in North America are a given. Here in Uganda–and in Africa in general–what come first are the rights of a murderous god, a god of human division, a god of hate.
The Ugandan freethought movement has a Herculean task before it. Uganda’s population is 84% Christian (roughly split between Catholics and Protestants), and highly conservative if not reactionary in their religion. A proposed bill that would make certain homosexual acts–already illegal–capital crimes, was inspired in part by American evangelicals like Scott Lively, and given tacit support by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has said that homosexuality is “against God’s will”.
AAU opposes the 2009 bill, which would make homosexuality punishable by prison or death. “We stand for human rights,” Mpagi says.
Mpagi has also taken a stand against extra-governmental forces that threaten human rights. Since 1987, Ugandans in the northern part of the country have been terrorized by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), headed by the murderous Joseph Kony:
Joseph Kony enslaved 35,000 or more children, kidnapping whole boarding schools under cover of the night. Joseph Kony…slashed and burned villages, settlements and even refugee camps, killing, raping, kidnapping and keeping a people under the yoke of impending terror. Joseph Kony’s LRA dismembered, cut lips, ears, hands, feet off of the innocent to keep them in fear. Joseph Kony who impoverished a whole region of Uganda through oppression and intimidation, through sheer terror. Joseph Kony, who took young women, called them his wives, beat them into submission, raped and impregnated them, scarring them emotionally for life.
For standing for human rights and against theocracy and brutality, Mpagi lives with the possibility of blackmail, arrest, and worse. (He was invited out to lunch on Christmas day, but declined, he told me, because he’s afraid of being poisoned.)
In the meantime, he is going back to school, so that he can someday qualify to run for office.
About the Author (Author Profile)Stacy Kennedy was born and raised in Southern California and currently lives in Los Angeles, two blocks from MacArthur Park. She is a secular humanist, a skeptic, and an atheist with pantheistic sympathies. She tells people that she is a writer.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Daylight Atheism > Eliminationists on the March | February 5, 2011