Kia ora: There is much to concern us with the devastation of Ukraine by Putin. We applaud the bravery of Marina Ovsyannikova, a senior producer at Russia’s state-run Channel One, who staged a protest on air by waving a sign reading: “Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.” Humanists from Belgium have formed a convoy of vehicles to transport aid to refugees on the Polish border with Ukraine. Humanist International have made a statement at the United Nations ‘at the urgent debate on the situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from Russian aggression
“Mr President, the unprovoked and illegal invasion by Russia in Ukraine is a violation of the UN Charter and international law, including human rights law. As each day goes by, we witness an increasing number of gross and systematic violations of human rights. It is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes.
This Council has a duty to respond.
It must adopt a robust resolution unequivocally condemning Russia’s actions and establishing a Commission of Inquiry to report on the situation in Ukraine and promote accountability for all forms of human rights violations occurring there.
Such violations are clearly facilitated and sustained by the oppressive human rights climate in the Russian Federation itself; the severe restrictions on free expression, the widespread propagation of disinformation, the repression of civil society, and the intimidation, censoring and criminalisation of journalists all contribute to the Russian government being able to wage a war of aggression without accountability at home. Accordingly, any Council resolution needs to create a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Russia.
Mr President, we meet today at the UN Human Rights Council; a body specifically tasked with protecting and promoting the human rights of all. To have a country that is, as we speak, dropping bombs on innocent civilians and wilfully blocking any action at the UN Security Council, continue to sit as a member of this Council is nothing less than a stain on the Council’s integrity and a shame on us all. Any resolution adopted must urge the General Assembly to suspend Russia’s HRC membership immediately.”
On a brighter note, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, arrested in 2012 on charges of ‘blasphemy’, jailed and sentenced to 1,000 lashes, has been freed. However, Raif is subject to a 10-year travel ban in Saudi Arabia and his wife and young family are in Canada. It is hoped Raif can join them.
Monday 4 April 2022 by Zoom 7.00 pm
Our second 2022 meeting will be held by Zoom as we wait out the Omicron outbreak.
Non-Religious Chaplaincy for New Zealand?
with UK humanist pastoral carer Lindsay van Dijk
Humanist NZ is working towards establishing a team of non-religious chaplains to work in our hospitals and prisons. We are at the beginning of this project and this month we have taken advantage of Zoom to invite Lindsay van Dijk from Humanists UK to talk to us. We appreciate Lindsay rising early in the UK morning to talk to us during our New Zealand evening. Lindsay van Dijk is one of a small group of salaried non-religious chaplains employed by the NHS in the UK. She is unique, though, in that she is the only non-religious chaplain who is the service manager for chaplaincy in a hospital trust. Originally from the Netherlands, Lindsay gained her qualifications at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht. In addition to her work supporting patients Lindsay is the chairperson of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (https://nrpsn.org.uk/), the organisation which recruits, trains, and accredits non-religious volunteers. The work by the NRPSN has led to over 40% of NHS hospitals, and 20% of prisons in the UK being able to offer non-religious spiritual support to people. Lindsay will be telling us about the progress of non-religious spiritual support, and how changes to the chaplaincy service can be made.
The End-of-Life Choice Bill was passed in 2019 with 69 votes in favour and 51 votes opposed. This Bill legalises assisted dying in cases where individuals have a terminal illness that is likely to end his or her life within six months, or a grievous and irremediable illness, and is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability, and is experiencing unbearable suffering. The Bill carefully defines those eligible for assisted dying, details a comprehensive set of provisions to ensure this is a free choice, made without coercion, and outlines a stringent series of steps to ensure the person is mentally capable of understanding the nature and consequences of each of the end-of life care options. In the 2018 Census, 48.6% of New Zealanders stated that they had no religion. Humanist NZ strongly advocates that people with no religion must have access to non-religious pastoral care.
Join us by Zoom, the meeting link is below:
Humanism Radio Programme on Arrow 92.7FM
Tim Wright, our Humanist NZ President, is hosting a Humanist Radio programme on the first Wednesday of the month at 9pm. The next Radio show is 9pm, on the 6th of April. It is available as a podcast at https://www.arrowfm.co.nz/programmes/show/186/humanism/. Tim will compile a programme of humanist interest with news, views, interviews and music. Your feedback is welcome. Tim may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Humanists NZ – Palmerston North/Papaioea:. Their event, Festival of Ideas, will be postponed to a later date. To be in touch with this group information is on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PalmyHumanists and Keith St-Clair may be emailed at email@example.com
New Zealand Skeptics Podcast’s latest episode ‘Non-religious Pastoral Care’ features Colin Woodhouse, a Humanist NZ committee member and registered nurse in Christchurch, who is interviewed by skeptics Bronwyn and Mark to learn more about Colin’s advocacy for non-religious pastoral care.
The art of listening: an interview with humanist pastoral carer Lindsay van Dijk
In 2019, Humanists UK interviewed Lindsay and the text of this interview follows. Lyndsay spoke about listening to patients in need of support, and providing somebody like-minded to speak to during some of life’s most difficult moments.
Hi Lindsay. What exactly is non-religious pastoral support?
Non-religious pastoral support is quite different to the support you’d get from a counsellor, a friend, or a religious chaplain. We don’t pray for you and we don’t give advice either. Our method of care relies of simply listening, questioning, and providing feedback
The underpinning value of humanist pastoral care is that we empower somebody to come up with their own solutions by being listened to. We find that often, patients have never been able to share their story with somebody who takes the time and patience to so sit with them. It’s a very simple but powerful approach.
What’s the difference between traditional counselling and non-religious pastoral support?
The main difference is that we put a person’s values, morals, and worldview at the forefront of how we interact with a patient. This might come as a secondary emphasis in cognitive behavioural therapy or psychotherapy, for example. Taking this approach means we better understand how a person views life. Understanding how a person copes with difficulties is the best reference for us to provide truly person-centred care.
Why is it so essential that hospitals offer non-religious pastoral care?
‘You’re not religious, right?’ is something I get asked by my patients, because for them, it’s really important to have somebody like-minded to speak to before they feel comfortable enough to disclose the difficulties they’re facing. Non-religious people, quite often, would rather speak to nobody than speak to a religious chaplain, so it’s really important that they are heard and we are there to provide that service.
And of course, over half of the population is non-religious…hospitals can’t simply neglect them by providing religious chaplaincy and nothing else.
Is there a difference between pastoral care in hospitals and prisons?
Yes. We provide non-judgemental support, which we call ‘unconditional positive regard’. In prison, it’s likely that carers will encounter somebody who has done terrible things. So, it’s very important to keep this non-judgemental perspective. Prisoners are still human beings and they deserve our support. It’s important for humanist carers to be able to separate the [criminal] action from the person, which may sound beautiful, but there always limitations. It’s extremely important for us to match the right carer with the right patient. Our training goes into this in some depth, and it helps to ensure that all of our carers take this approach.
Where do you want to see non-religious pastoral care in the future?
I would really like to see non-religious pastoral care embedded in the armed forces and the police. These are people on the frontline, who’re put in extremely high-pressure environments, and who have extremely limited support they can access. The armed forces, for example, has such as strong Christian presence. You’re asked to pray even if you’re not religious, you’re required to attend Sunday service, and so on. Obviously, if this doesn’t align with your values, then non-religious pastoral care becomes extremely useful to you. We want to be able to offer these people support through difficult times.
If I was interested in becoming a non-religious pastoral carer, where would I start?
Volunteering with the Non-Religious Pastoral Care Network is the best way to get involved. Practical experience will teach you how to engage with someone a pastoral way, whether that’s in hospitals, prisons or in education. But I’m happy to say that there’s also an academic route into humanist pastoral care too. In 2018, Humanists UK and the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling developed the MA in Existential and Humanistic Pastoral Care, and we have our first cohorts graduating this year, which is exciting! Graduates receive a degree that is accredited by the University of Middlesex and provisional accreditation in both pastoral care and humanist ceremonies.
In our New Zealand context, we are working towards training but specific details are still to be worked through.
Humanistically Speaking: In the March 2022 Newsletter an article from Humanistically Speaking on Witchcraft in Africa was included. There are many interesting articles to be found at their website: https://www.humanisticallyspeaking.org/copy-of-magazine . There are a number of contributing humanist writers from around the world. Tragically, a humanist writer from Afghanistan has been executed for apostacy.
Mubarak Bala Unlawful Detention: Mubarak is approaching 700 days imprisonment. Mubarak is imprisoned for a Facebook post made in April 2020. In 2017 in Legit, a Nigerian news service, Mubarak said “I have chosen the path of reason, love for humanity, spread of education, reason and humanism, secularism and freedom.” This turning away from Islam has angered Muhammad Bala, Mubarak’s father, who is a Muslim extremist and Islamic ‘scholar’, and is also 2nd in command of the Sharia Police in Kano, Nigeria. Mubarak’s father wants him to revert to Islam, Mubarak will not revert and so his father uses his influence to keep his son imprisoned
Hate Speech Legislation: Humanist NZ has had a long interest in Hate Speech Law and we were concerned about government Hate Speech proposals suggested after the 2019 Mosque shooting in Christchurch. We feel strongly that ideas must always be free to be critiqued. It seemed a distinct possibility that Hate speech law could become a Blasphemy Law in disguise. Bryce Edwards has written an article about the delay in the introduction of Hate Speech law reform in the website Democracy Project https://democracyproject.nz/and with permission is published below. However, Muslim leaders in New Zealand want to see the Government give an assurance and date that hate speech laws will happen: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/128138146/hate-speech-law-about-national-safety-not-political-football-muslim-representatives-say. An editorial in the Christchurch Press in June 2021 quoted Canterbury University Law Professor Ursula Cheer warning that “hate speech laws must be crafted in such a way that they only criminalise speech that is motivated by real hatred, “and does not simply capture stupid or reckless speech.” https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/125560332/the-slipperiness-of-hate-speech?rm=a
Political Roundup: Labour’s sensible taihoa on hate speech law reform
The Government has delayed the introduction of its fraught hate speech law reforms, and there’s strong speculation they’ll remain on ice until after the next election. In fact, they may never see the light of day again.
This is a win for those who have argued that the reforms are likely to be counterproductive, impinging on human rights, including political freedoms and speech. Although the Government’s motivation might have been good in wanting to clamp down on what people can legally say, in practice the reforms were badly thought through and would have a chilling impact on political debate.
Famously both the Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were unable to adequately defend or explain their new rules last year, which gave weight to the argument that they were dangerous and knee-jerk.
Opponents of the Government were easily able to paint a picture of the reforms as epitomising a “woke and authoritarian” impulse by Labour. This created an electoral risk for Ardern’s administration.
The fact that the voices of dissent crossed the political spectrum from left to right, meant Labour had real pause for thought about persisting with the reforms. Although there was very strong enthusiasm for action on hate speech within some sections of the Labour Party, it threatened to bog the Government down in a big culture war over the regulation of speech.
With last week’s 1News opinion poll giving Labour a wakeup call, there is now a clear impetus for Labour to re-evaluate the parts of their reform programme that might be unnecessary and unpopular. Clampdowns on speech and politics were the first to go.
Faafoi announced on Newshub’s The Nation on Saturday that the reforms would be delayed. He sensibly explained: “I think, as you would have seen from the public reaction to that, I think it showed us that much more care needed to be taken to make sure that, you know, I think, the intent is genuine to make sure that those laws land in the right place” and “I want to make sure we get that right”.
The mature stance from Faafoi continued this week, when he further explained the need to taihoa: “when you’re dealing with complex issues, delicate issues, and sensitive issues like this, you should take the appropriate amount of time to do that”. He added: “When you get that amount of feedback, and that kind of response, I think it’s inherent on us to make sure that we move through and with caution.”
In contrast, Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon is very unhappy with this decision, and he has accused the Government of “dragging its heels” on the reforms, saying this would allow hate to fester.
Foon complains that the Government is being too sensitive to political criticism, arguing Labour has delayed the reforms simply because it has been “politically too hard to deal with”. He argues it’s simply not good enough: “Yes, it is political to implement and make laws, but that is the job of the Government – to make difficult decisions.”
His office has always been one of the strongest campaigners for the change. Foon says to ignore the criticism and begin the process of implementing the original proposals. He has said: “Whether they like it or not, they got their feedback, and now it’s time to get on with it and get it on to the debating chamber, or select committee, and go through the process and adopt it, and make it law.”
Does Foon believe that more consultation with the community is necessary, or that the unintended consequences could be ironed out with further consideration? It seems not. He says: “We have had meetings galore; my suggestion is less meeting and more getting on with making Aotearoa a safer place.”
However, the Race Relations Commissioner has also shown he has a very poor grasp of the reforms. He denies that the reforms would impact on people’s rights, and he erroneously says: “It’s not about that. It’s about inciting violence from the speech that people make. That is the threshold”. He has elaborated that, “The bill is to stop incitement of violence and it is to stop another mosque attack like they’ve had”.
In fact, incitement to violence is already illegal, and these proposals are about a very different issue: incitement to hate. This concept has proved very nebulous to define. It caught out Faafoi and Ardern, who couldn’t explain what it meant last year, nor who would be prosecuted by the new law. The infamous example that Faafoi admitted was possible, was it could lead to prosecution of millennials hating boomers for the housing crisis
It was concerning that a Justice Minister and Prime Minister had such poor understanding of their own legal reforms last year. And it’s worrying that the Race Relations Commission has such little understanding or concern for human rights
The political parties have used other issues to justify the reforms. For example, this week in Parliament, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman argued on the anniversary of the March 15 Christchurch terrorist atrocity that it was the direct result of the lack of regulation of political speech in New Zealand. She also raised the recent protests outside Parliament as illustrating the need for a clampdown
For Labour, a big justification for progressing hate speech law reforms has been the stated need to create and maintain “social cohesion”, which is a very worthy goal. However, it has become increasingly clear that the hate speech proposals themselves were a kneejerk reaction that would actually worsen social relations
Although law reforms might seem like an easy fix for a government wanting runs on the board for progressive transformation of society, there is no getting around the fact that social cohesion arises more from the economic and material position of the citizenry. When public policy leads to inequality, poverty, homelessness, educational and health inadequacy, this drives the conditions for social division and conflict. It’s these areas Labour needs to urgently turn to.