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Conversation with Michael Osei-Assibey — President, Humanist Association of Ghana (Part 2)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/03/09

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What has been an emotionally trying experience as a humanist in Ghana?

Michael Osei-Assibey: There certainly has been and will be many experiences that will be emotionally trying for humanists in Ghana but personally, it’s been the times that bigotry cut close to home. We can not choose the families we are born into and one can only hope that the people you love will share the same empathy you have for humanity. However, it is that same level of empathy that helped me through those times, with the realisation that we are a product of our environment. It spurred me on to talk about issues of sexual orientation, tribalism, religious intolerance and critical thinking with members of my family, no matter how uncomfortable it got.

Jacobsen: What are the ongoing educational initiatives of the Humanist Association of Ghana?

Osei-Assibey: HAG started a book drive, I believe in December of last year. One of our member, Helen List, Owner of the Afia Beach Hotel, organized a Christmas book drive to make a Christmas Tree out of books which she donated a majority of to the HAG efforts. The working plan is to encourage reading in the public schools in our communities. HAG has been in talks with the Kotobabi Cluster of Schools to listen to their problems and discuss whatever solutions they propose and how we could be of help. Although their problems seemed overwhelming as with all other public schools, HAG is committed to helping out however that we can. The First step is the donation of books and stationery to the primary schools as well as working with Learning Support Solution to provide learning support to the students. We also intend to create relationships between the private schools with access to educational psychologists and teachers with specializations to create an avenue for sharing ideas. HAG is also in talks with the Accra Planetarium to find a way to get the students in these schools interested in Science and experience the universe in the planetarium.

HAG already has a relationship with the Young Adults Support Services of OAfrica, a non-profit working to empowers children and young adults in need of care and protection because of institutionalization, abandonment, neglect, disability or abuse to become productive members of the community. We have had a presentation with the young adults under their care on social issues and hope to continue along the same lines of bringing the discussions to them and giving them the tools of critical thinking to be able to discuss these ideas.

Members of HAG also run the HAGtivist podcast which is in its third season. On there, we discuss social, political and cultural issues through a humanist perspective.

Finally, we hope to start debate programs in at least one university before the first quarter of next year. Universities are supposed to be breeding grounds for free thinking but that is not currently the case. We hope that these debate programs will change that.

Jacobsen: What are the current social and political activist projects of the Humanist Association of Ghana?

Osei-Assibey: As much as HAG tries not to be reactionary, it is difficult given the climate we find ourselves. Our online activities targets LGBTQ rights in Ghana with our most recent one being an open letter to the speaker of parliament (insert link) on his homophobic stance. Our monthly meetings invite the general public to discussions on activism, inequality, climate change, political and economic thought, etc. Currently, we are having conversations on the marriage between economics and humanism in order to better understand the inequalities in our society and how to tackle them.

HAG also affiliates itself with pro-environment groups such as Environment 360, and we will be participating in this year’s Float Your Boat competition (an initiative to raise funds to educate kids about being environmentally aware) of which we were last years winners. We designed and constructed a raft using recycled plastic bottles, and raced with it.

Our current focus online is starting conversations on critical thinking with a series of articles planned to discuss the issue of pseudo-science in our healthcare system. The rise of homeopathic clinics and alternative medicine centres is worrying and we need to help with the sensitisation/education of the public of the potential damage they can cause.

Jacobsen: What are the likely trajectories of the humanist movement in Ghana for the next 5 years?

Osei-Assibey: One of the few things that fills me with hope is the increasing number of people asking questions and showing signs of scepticism. A few years ago, social media was flooded with religion, pseudoscience and people falling for all sorts of scams. However, more people seem to be asking questions now and being more sceptical about information that they receive. This trend give me hope because it is out of scepticism that humanism is birthed. There are also a lot more openly irreligious people and a lot more people openly criticizing religion with some movements even arising within churches themselves, questioning the historicity and morality of the bible and the activities of the church and religious leaders. What do I see this culminating to in 5 years? The last poll in 2010 placed nones at a little over 5%. By 2022, nones should be over 10% of the population with humanists, atheists and agnostics making a chunk of that number.

Jacobsen: Who are the perennial threats to the freedom to be irreligious in Ghana?

Osei-Assibey: The biggest threats are those who will be most affected by an irreligious, secular society. Religious leaders have been increasingly whipping up the hate against people who do not believe or finding subtle ways to reaffirm the faiths of their flock by pitting them against logic and reasoning. There are many times that religious leaders have been called out for their actions but seem unfazed, bouncing back with more rhetoric about how the ways of their deity is mysterious or how the “anointed” can not be touched. Sometimes, it feels like they are grasping at straws and the backlash they receive from other people of faith give me hope that their power and influence on society is waning. In our organization, we have come to realize that economic independence is also a major factor in presenting non-belief or coming out as irreligious especially to the youth who are mostly still dependent on their parents or family. I have sometimes had to advise friends not to reveal their non-belief to family yet in order not to face the most likely harsh results of being disowned.

Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts?

Osei-Assibey: Becoming a humanist was a tough decision because it meant I will be going against the grain with respect to family and society at large. What has made it easier is the relationships that have been cultivated into one that I can call family. I found the love of my life, a feminist and a humanist, who shares my passion for fighting inequality wherever we find it and we will be getting married in December. I also found friends who add meaning to my life and share in the crazy notion that we can effect positive change in our own small way, and in our own small circles that may resonate and ripple across the entire country and continent.

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Michael.​


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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