Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Malawian humanist kicked off a bus for objecting to Christian preacher (and reading a bit of Hitchens)

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George Thindwa
We were very interested to hear from George Thindwa, chair of Malawian Association of Secular Humanism, about a recent encounter he had with an evangelical Christian preacher while travelling on a bus to the Malawi's capital, Lilongwe. Like Nigeria's Leo Igwe, whose work we have reported on here, George is a fearless campaigner against religious abuses, including the persecution of people accused of "witchcraft". He was travelling to the capital from Bantyre, and enjoying his copy of Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great, when a preacher boarded the bus and began proselytising to passengers. When he reached the part of the bus where he was sitting, George decided he didn't want to hear preacher:
"A pastor came closer to where I was sat and started delivering his sermon. I told him to move away from me as I could not understand what he was preaching because I am not a believer."
Not entirely unreasonable, you might think, but some of George's fellow passengers decided to rally behind the preacher:
"I was also reading a book  by Christopher Hitchens titled God Is Not Great. And when a passenger sitting next to me heard what I said and saw what I was reading, he labelled me a Satanist. Then noise erupted and the pastor left the bus."
Trouble over, then? Not exactly – when the bus reached a  roadblock, the driver decided to involve the authorities:
"The bus driver and his crew went to police to complain, saying they were not comfortable with my presence in the bus. We discussed the issue with the police officers for about one-and-a-half hours and we settled that I should not join them again."
Saying he feels that he has been discriminated against, George has since expressed his intention to sue the bus company for breach of contract.
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