Jichojipya ThinkAnew, “Jichojipya Nsajigwa profile Humanism Activism 2002 to 2017” (2018)

by | June 25, 2024

I am Mr. Nsajigwa I Mwasokwa, 53 years, a pioneer and freethinker in Tanzania. Trained here in Tanzania and in Japan in farming, cultural tourism, and youth development from the grassroots. I am experienced in tour guiding, teaching, translation, English to Swahili and vice versa. Youth talent incubating and mentoring. I discovered humanism through book reading in search for answers. Who am I, where it all came from, and what forces have shaped me to be a modern African that I am.

Jichojipya ThinkAnew, “Jichojipya Nsajigwa profile Humanism Activism 2002 to 2017” (2018)

Nsajigwa Mwasokwa is one of the most, humble impressive humanists known to me. At the time of the video presentation, he was 53 years old, as he noted. He founded Jicho Jipya, Think Anew. A humanist organization in Tanzania with the expressed purpose to advance humanism generally or freethought more precisely in Tanzania, not exactly an easy endeavour. UNESCO says Tanzania has a 82.02% literacy rate. So, if he is advancing via literature and the like, then he should be making inroads. He’s on the latter half of life committing himself to other people in a country without a lot of resources. This is not a rich country or a wealthy people. He goes on:

By 1998, before the internet came in Tanzania, I came to know two worlds: free thinking and humanism. Ah, Eureka, I discovered myself as one. How I have been living ethically good, guided rationally without relying on a supernatural being… I was like that long before knowing the levels of free thinking and humanism. By books and then follow-up on the internet, when that arrived in Tanzania by 2000, I noticed IHEU and what it was about. I wrote to its secretary, by then Mr. Babu Gogineni. And two years later I applied to attend its conference and I was selected fortunately. I attended the 50-year mark, IHEYO and IHEU milestone jubilee. General assembly in the Netherlands.

I, often, go back and listen to this video, which is why I wanted to present this in an article with the transcript. He was a young(er) adult at the time of thinking back, 1998. Yet, he found, as I did, the worlds of freethought and humanism. They evolve over time. Yet, they emphasis an individual develop and exploration of ideas and then applying this in life. Intriguingly, my experience was much the same. Before finding a formal community, which can be loose in and of itself, we were acting in humanistic ways and had patterns of living in freethought. Gogineni is a prominent humanist and a important figure. So, it’s cool to see how all these interpersonal interactions have developed and worked over time. It must have been a nice time to meet Babu and the rest during a milestone jubilee. He continues:

And I spent some time at the Utrecht Humanist University Library, reading for self-study. By that time, the chief librarian of the university there was Mr. Bert Gasenbeek. He was very helpful and he just let me read whatever I wanted to read there in the library. I could use all the facilities, even if I was on my own. They could just leave me going through books, philosophy, humanism, Free Inquirymagazines. It was a wonderful experience for somebody a bibliophile like me. Bert gave me a book, this one: International Humanist and Ethical Union 1952–2002 Past, Present and Future. This was a book written by him, Bert, together with Babu Gogineni. It was articles from different humanists. So they compiled together in marking 50 years of the existence of the movement of humanism into an organization, IHEU. Basically, it’s a book about the history of how humanism as a movement eventually became organized as a body, an entity, an organization registered one, in 1952.

I find Nsajigwa inspiring because he takes the simplest parts of a thoughtful life as something to become excited. He is among the more literate humanists and freethinkers known to me. He does not necessarily have excellent access to resources. Yet, he makes do. When he gets the opportunity, Bert Gasenbeek takes the time to help Nsajigwa as necessary, and then to let him explore the resources in the Utrecht Humanist University Library. This is the importance of the sharing of experiences and resources across national lines. It gives other humanists the opportunity to build a repository of understanding. Also, it leaves an impression, as Nsajigwa noted about 1998 in 2018. I self-publish a lot of material. I do not know who will necessarily fall into its orbit. No one is jealous of the path to get into any level of prominence, but more once you’ve achieved some level of prominence. The text by Bert and Babu would seem like a good idea to read and review if anyone has the time. Their book describes them thus:

Bert Gasenbeek (1953, the Netherlands) obtained a ma at the University of Amsterdam. He is Managing Director of the Humanist Archives and the Library of the University for Humanistics. He has published on various topics from the history of humanism.

Babu Gogineni (1968, India) is a former French language teacher at the Alliance Française of Hyderabad. He was Joint Secretary of the Indian Radical Humanist Association and Trustee of the Indian Renaissance Institute. He co-edited the books Rationalist Essays and The Humanist Way.

He continues:

It was started by many freethinkers and humanists and ethical culturalists of that time. A prominent thinker, a scientist was Julius Huxley. He had written a book before titled Religion Without Revelation. His idea was the time has reached that the scientific mind, the scientific body should come out with the idea of making a science-based religion, something like that. I mean religion that doesn’t believe in supernaturality, doesn’t believe in any deity. So that was the idea of the 1950s back then. But it was those people at that time who came out with that idea and they concretized those ideas into an organization in 1952. That’s when IHEU was born. So from the Netherlands I came back to Tanzania. In the same year, 2002, I had to go to Kampala, Uganda, to team up with the Ugandans to welcome and guide IHEU president Levi Fragell. It was the first time that the president of IHEU had visited Africa. And the mission was to come to explore Africa itself, to know Africa and then to plant the seeds of the humanism philosophy in Africa.

In fact, I do not see the name Julius Huxley as much anymore, but, at one time, he was an in-house name mentioned by humanists more often than now. Note how Nsajigwa mentions freethinkers, humanists, and ethical culturalists, I try to do the same after people like him. It’s important. It provides the breadth of disparate and associated on some core values. People can disagree with individuals, even institutions, but so many things are overlapping concerns for non-theist Satanists, ethical culturalists, humanists, freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, and the like. It can be tiresome and even burdensome to mention the breadth every time, but every once in a while seems helpful as a reminder: pick your spots. I haven’t read the book Religion Without Revelation. However, the idea for a scientific religion does match the idea of humanism, where it’s non-supernaturalism plus scientific methodology to learn about the world. The stuff learned can set boundaries on conversations of right and wrong actions in a world. There seems to be a growing recognition in many humanist organizations. Humanism wasn’t formally organized in its contemproary form until the middle 20th-century. That’s fair. Its components continue to arise in amny traditions. That’s also fair. So, it’s a good give-and-take contextualizing the history and the current institutions, which have been evolving. It was cool to see how Levi Fragell was able to visit and coordinate several decades ago. He had a clear impact on Nsajigwa. He went on:

So I was there and Levi Fragell elder came and we went through places in Uganda that he visited and he was lecturing around what humanism is. That’s how it started in Uganda, that humble beginning. I was there, I was there with him and the Ugandans. So I’ve been a humanist thinker and an activist: Teaching, translating, interpreting, grooming, incubating youngsters philosophical-wise, free-thinking-wise and entrepreneurship-wise. It’s not easy, facing constant ostracism and even excommunication. And a difficulty just to get an organization with humanist objects registered in a country which is otherwise peaceful, democratically multi-party on paper but very illiberal, hostile place for native, independent-minded thinkers and freethinkers. That’s our reality. Despite that, I have worked as a volunteer here throughout, constantly for that cause. I have traveled and served in Tanzania, in Uganda, in Malawi, in Kenya and just recently in Nigeria.

This is really the perennial problem for humanists, whether Tanzania or Uganda, or Canada or Guatemala. The paper liberalism of so many countries, but the social and political contexts can be very illiberal in their treatment of humanists and independent minded thinkers. There are difficulties in public speaking in different countries, too. That’s true. Also, to take this on and bring humanism to other countries, it’s, probably, a tough balance. You have to explain why humanism fits and provide a roadmap for how this can be done, too, in general terms. The specifics have to be worked out in the context of the country. I praise Nsajigwa’s effors because he’s doing this, by all observation, without a ton of support. It’s impressive. I don’t know if I would persist as long as he has without so many supports that exist in Canada.

Basically, meeting with fellow free thinkers and African humanists, exchanging experiences and coming with common strategies of how we can push forward this philosophy of humanist movement so that we counter irrationalism which is so rampant in Africa, gullibility, beliefs in witchcraft, dark age mentality. Those are the things we are confronted against through free thinking, through humanism, through skepticism. We want the African society to start asking questions, to question things, to question our reality. Not to believe everything, to take it for granted, just to ask questions, to ask scientific questions, to be rational. So that eventually Africa can attain its renaissance by getting enlightenment. This is all what it is about in Africa. Free thinking here, humanism here should liberate our people from dark age mentality. It should be the light of the dark, it should be the light in the dark.

It doesn’t matter the person. There’s an explicit orientation on dealing with issues of gullibility and anti-science in a society. Nsajigwa is working where he is at; he is working with skeptical and humanist values in a Tanzanian context. The values do not change. The values emphasized do change. That’s important. He’s hopeful for a liberatory movement in Africa away from the limitations of the moment where precolonial and other superstitions are present and impactful on the society. To challenge these forces, it’s impressive.

Currently, I am a chairperson and one of the founders of JichoJipya (Think Anew). A registered freethinkers, humanist, secularist organization in Tanzania. I am that person who volunteered for the work of translating the IHEU Amsterdam Declaration 2002 into Swahili. That being the first time that such an important document is in an African language. I hereby volunteer to serve formally for this cause that I know enough of theoretically and by practice. It is the battle against irrationality, gullibility due to superstitions in all its forms including that of religions, dogma and unscientific outlook of life. In my own society, that has meant albino killings, rampant superstitions, also witch accusing and ostracism to old women. To counter that, I will continue to work for skepticism and critical thinking towards the beliefs, STEM, that is Science, Technology, Engineering and M for Mathematics, which at the grassroots level should mean logic and rationalism. Human rights, fighting for that, watchdog for secularism, imparting enlightenment via scientific temper, and working with the global humanist movement for the common cause in realizing the ideals, the visions of IHEU’s Amsterdam Declaration 2002 in line with the United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights [and] Charter. It is also on the pipeline that I am ready for the training to become a humanist celebrant.

Nsajigwa, without making much of a deal about it, is mentioning how he made intellectual history for humanists in Tanzania by translating a major humanist document into Swahili. He not only believes what he says, but applies this quite directly in precise and appropriate ways. North America has more organized religious institution and governmental structure separation issues, still, as their focus, for the most part. His issues are more direct: the killings of albinos, the pervasive superstitions that can lead to injuries and attacks on others, and the accusation against witches that often leads to isolation of old women too. I appreciate the reference to the UN founding documents too. This is important. He finishes:

It will be good for dramatizing our life stance here, providing an alternative to our people to theism. Thank you so much. Oh, just a small thing, sorry, just a small thing. My hobbies, please. Reading books, especially on religions, comparative study of religions, holy books, be it Bible, Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Analects, Vedas, etc. Also reading philosophy, world history, writing analytical articles on that and other social, cultural, topical issues. I also like watching on television, watching sports, especially soccer and athletes. I like watching documentaries, documentaries on nature, fauna and flora, and documentaries on human life, too. I like free-thinking debates. And I like traveling, naturally being a tour guide on ecotourism, too. Again, thank you all fellow humanists, whatever for your personal categories. Salute to you all, knowing we are all working hard together for this, for mankind’s emancipation in your different societies. I am but that humble underdog based on the grassroots. Let me have your due support, count on you. Thank you. It is Nsajigwa in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Thank you so much.

Nsajigwa is a great person, a wonderful humanist. I hope his legacy lasts a long time and his name gets out more.

Photo by Ben Preater on Unsplash

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