Humanism around the World – December 2016


ianThe Central London Humanist Group is committed to keeping members informed of Humanism Internationally. We aim to do this through regular bulletins bringing members up to date with issues relating to Humanism around the world.

Edited by Ian Symons.


Many Humanist groups around the world have expressed views on the election of Donald Trump as the next American President. The IHEU, in a statement headed Build bridges not walls, said:

“Along with IHEU Member Organisations in the US — including American Atheists, American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association and Center for Inquiry — and IHEU members around the world, we will continue to advance humanist ideas and to resist bigotry and prejudice. On the international stage we will redouble our efforts in the promotion of universal human rights, we will continue to champion secularism and secular freedoms, and we will insist that the future must be one where – instead of building walls between ourselves and others – we work together for justice, peace, and the values of equality and human dignity.”

saScientific American published the instant reactions of a number of the prominent scientists on its Board of Advisors, including Richard Dawkins.  Their mixture of shock, horror and “wait and see” can be read here.  A set of more substantive responses are also now on its website here.

On the upside, perhaps ….

  • Oklahoma voters rejected an amendment to their State Constitution which would have allowed public money to be used to support religion.
  • Colorado voters passed a bill to allow physician-assisted suicide.
  • and California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada all voted to legalise the recreational use of marijuana.
  • In addition, a New Mexico appeals court has upheld a ruling that a monument displaying the Ten Commandments outside a municipal building is illegal.


In the September sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the International Humanist and Ethical Union kept up the pressure on UN member states to meet their human rights obligations to citizens.

hrcSwati Kamble, a Dalit woman, spoke on behalf of IHEU to condemn the rise in Hindu nationalism which has occurred since the present Indian government came to power in 2104, and the subsequent increase in violence against Dalits as well as religious minorities in India.  Her statement can be read here.

The IHEU’s director of advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, highlighted the problem of hate speech against LGBTI people in Uganda and Nigeria, and the role of state officials in perpetuating that hate.  She also noted the key part played by evangelical preachers from the USA in inciting anti-LGBTI sentiment and discrimination in Africa. Her statement was coordinated with Ugandan and Nigerian human rights advocates and Humanist groups.  More details are available here.

Elizabeth O’Casey also spoke on behalf of anti-slavery activists in Mauretania. It is estimated that more than 155,000 people are enslaved in Mauretania – more than in any other country – while anti-slavery activists are punished by the state.  Since July, thirteen campaigners have been sentenced to between 3 and 15 years in prison.  IHEU called for their immediate and unconditional release, in a statement that is available here.

In other statements at the Human Rights Council the IHEU: stressed the continuing need to repeal Greece‘s blasphemy laws;  urged the Government of Samoa not to implement its stated intention to declare the country officially Christian (in a joint statement with the Pacific Islands Secular Association); and expressed concern at the way in which in some states have been dealing with extremism by distorting the concept of secularism in order to undermine the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief – such as in Tajikistan and some other Central Asian states where people have been persecuted for wearing Islamic dress, growing beards, and practising religion in public.  More on the related burkini debate below.

Full details of IHEU’s advocacy work can be found at



euIn September the EHF joined 176 other European civil society organisations and trade unions in response to the growth of intolerant and divisive populist politics across Europe.  Their statement recognised the disillusion felt by many people with the European Union and the seeming remoteness of its institutions and policies.  They called for:

“A Europe that is inclusive, open, just, sustainable, and that works for people of all ages, social backgrounds and nations … a new focus on equality and inclusion, a relaunch of the European social model to provide decent work, quality jobs and better living conditions, strong environmental protection, meaningful action on climate change, and an EU-wide effort to welcome and integrate migrants.”

The full statement is here (PDF).


ecsoWhile Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” its 2016 international word of the year, the website of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations records some of the more egregious scams that have recently been exposed as well as sceptics’ responses to more commonplace dubious claims – including Swedish Humanists’ objection to the Pope’s visit to their country in October.


iheyoIn August, the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation held an Asian Humanism Conference at Taiwan University in Taipei.  Representatives attended from across Asia, including Pakistan, Nepal, Singapore, Taiwan, and the Philippines.  The theme of the event was Old and New: Timeless Solutions to Modern Challenges, a title meant to highlight both the richness of Humanist thought in Asia’s past and the vibrancy of Humanist asianactivism in Asia today.  East Asia is one of the lest religious regions in the world.

The Conference logo (left) was based on the Chinese character for humans.  IHEYO hopes that it will become the recognised symbol of Humanism across the Chinese-speaking world.



franceiheuThe International Humanist and Ethical Union has urged governments not respond to horrific terrorist attacks by repressing the freedom of expression of the attackers’ co-religionists, for example, and perhaps most prominently in the public eye, by claiming that the wearing of particular clothing would “cause offence”‘ or ‘”risk public order”.  The principle that there is no right not to be offended, and that being offended is no excuse for violence, has to be for everyone.  IHEU’s full statement is here: This is not our secularism / Ce n’est pas notre laïcité.


usA California-based not-for-profit organisation, the Brighter Brains Institute, which describe itself as a  “think-and-do tank”, is supporting a number of Humanist initiatives in Africa, particularly in education and micro-finance.  Amongst its beneficiaries is the Kasese Primary School in Uganda, which is also supported by British Humanists, and other schools in Uganda and Ghana.  It is also working with the prominent Nigerian Humanist, Leo Igwe, on his campaign against witchcraft accusations, and providing practical help to women who have been accused of witchcraft and banished from their communities in Ghana.


aushawThe New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists has launched a new campaign for the repeal of the country’s blasphemy laws, highlighting George Bernard Shaw’s take on the scientific method, right.   In arguing against blasphemy laws in New Zealand, the campaign is focusing on the great harm that such laws cause in many other countries around the world, where authoritarian religious leaders use the retention of blasphemy laws in liberal democracies to justify severe repression in their own countries.


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This CLHG International Bulletin was compiled by Ian Symons on behalf of the CLHG Committee. Please send any comments direct to