It is with heavy hearts that Atheist Republic bid farewell to a beloved champion of human rights in our international Atheist Republic community in Africa, Lynda Tilley.
Lynda served as a leader in the Atheist Republic's Consulate in Durban, South Africa. Her activism spanned a decade, and she served as a voice for the weak, oppressed, and voiceless throughout Africa. In Tanzania, she was endearingly called “Mamma Kelele,” which roughly translates to “Vociferous Woman” in Swahili.
This nickname described Lynda very well because she could passionately and relentlessly make the loudest noise both online and offline to raise awareness on a wide range of issues and advocacies she truly believed in. She was also a dedicated social worker and human rights activist, constantly fighting for the release of innocent victims from imprisonment.
As we at Atheist Republic mourn the loss Lynda left behind in the hearts of those who had the privilege to know and work with her. She was not only a leader and a human rights advocate, she was also a friend and an ally for many of us.
Lynda Tilley: A Voice of Africa, by Africa, for Africa
Born at a time when racial discrimination was systemic and societal norms were rigid, Lynda's journey as an atheist and humanist was both challenging and inspiring. Lynda overcame these rigid expectations and became a vocal, tireless advocate for human rights in a continent where human rights violations are routinely committed.
She was involved in a variety of works and advocacies, from building strong humanist and secularist communities throughout Africa to providing regular updates on the conditions of refugees at the Kakuma Camp in Kenya and giving them support. Lynda also participated in numerous projects to make water accessible throughout South Africa, fuelled by her conviction that every human being should have access to basic amenities, such as water.
As an atheist, she sought to combat superstition and harmful religious beliefs, find answers through science and reason, and campaign for secularism and tolerance in deeply religious Africa.
As a humanist, Lynda saw the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. To her, everyone was equal, and no race, religious belief, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class was superior to the other. She strongly believed that every individual is equal and deserving of dignity and respect.
She saw the value of social media in spreading the message of secular humanism not just in Africa, but the whole world. Lynda was active throughout several social media channels and websites, from Facebook to Medium. She was also a contributor at the Sahara Reporters, a news website that promotes citizen journalism in Africa.
Her passion and dedication were not only seen in championing human rights in Africa. It was also seen when Lynda spent two years fighting for Mubarak Bala, a prominent humanist, and atheist in Nigeria, after Nigerian authorities unlawfully arrested and detained him for alleged blasphemy.
Still shocked by the abrupt news of her death, Mubarak Bala penned an emotional tribute to Lynda, recalling how she tirelessly fought for his rights. Mubarak also fondly remembered Lynda not just as a dedicated humanist and atheist, but also as an ardent Pan-Africanist, who advocated for democracy, good governance, transparency, and goodwill among African nations.
“I gradually got to understand her not just as a humanist, but as a Pan-Africanist, a social worker, a human rights defender, a leading advocate for sub-Saharan hegemony in social and economic impact at the grassroots level. Lynda as I came to understand her, seemed more passionate than other Africans about Africa, and the heritage, because she could see the future, beyond what lies in our midst, beyond the horizon, she saw a future bright and promising, for Africa to sort its many problems and stand tall, in the comity of nations.” Mubarak said about Lynda’s Pan-Africanism.
For her efforts in advancing human rights and democracy in Africa and her unwavering commitment to humanism, Mubarak proposed an African Humanist Award in Lynda’s name. Her legacy as a social worker, Pan-Africanist, and humanist made her the “Superwoman of African Humanism.”
Lynda also hosted the Call to Activism – Africa project by Kato Mukasa, a Ugandan humanist, economist, and lawyer. This project allowed her to form deeper relationships with many people and transformed acquaintances into friends and even family.
Writing about the shock, grief, and regret he felt upon hearing the news of Lynda’s death, Mukasa said “Lynda is dead but not dead. Her ideas and ideals remain stronger in our minds. Her voice remains alive in the very many voice messages she sent me as well as the several Talk Show appearances she made. We can only honour her by following through with the great ideas she wanted us to see through. We can only show gratitude by setting aside our differences and uniting for a common cause. We can only make her proud by furthering the spirit of activism which she cherished so much. We can all resolve to be the change makers we can be, and the first gesture would be by planting trees in her memory.”