Kia ora: Before the advent of modern global communication with Email and Facebook and various other social media platforms, the Internet, which allows us to search out information, we were isolated and insular in what we knew about the situations of other people and communities beyond our shores. But today, we are frighteningly aware of so much hardship and difficulties for others in various places around the world. Today is DAY 455 of Mubarak Bala’s unjust imprisonment. His court case for 14 July 2021 was postponed to 22 July 2021. But again, this date has gone with no Court Hearing and no further news except the Facebook Vigil which continues with a daily post recording this cruel passing of time. Moderate Muslims make no comment on this barbaric situation.

There are water shortages in Khouzestan province, South Iran, as the Iranian regime has closed water sources forcing Iranian Arabs and Sunni minorities to leave their lands and cities. The Islamic regime are killing people of this area protesting the water shortage.

The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has news reports expressing concerns for the women and children of Afghanistan as the Taliban make advances into the territory vacated by American troops. The reports cite widespread fear that the Taliban will reintroduce the notorious system of gender segregation that they applied in the late 1990s, a system which denied girls and women access to education and the right to work, and vote.  We have heard of the concerns of humanists in Pakistan as the Taliban advance: “Like minded humanists, secular and democratic folks are deeply worried about Taliban advances in the rural areas of Northern Afghanistan after the US forces’ exit. At least the presence of the US ground troops in Afghanistan was a guarantee of peace here. Pakistan had suffered many civilian and soldiers’ deaths perpetrated by suicide attacks by Islamist pro-Taliban terrorist outfits in the Musharraf era. Here in Pakistan, pro-Taliban people are very excited over the Taliban advances and occupation in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the government sponsored indoctrination in our curriculum and electronic media is a lethal blow to the secular democratic forces in Pakistan. I hope that the very Islamist influences of pro-Taliban forces do not take over our dysfunctional democracy. I beseech you to keep an eye on the latest developments in Afghanistan as it would directly affect us here in many ways. The spectre of terrorism is looming large and just unleashed not far away from us. We have a 2200 km porous border with Afghanistan. There are millions of government-sponsored indoctrinated supporters of Islamist terrorist outfits. People have been intoxicated with the induced euphoria of Islamism. They are unable to see any beauty in this life and are always enchanted with life hereafter. We try our best to raise awareness that this life is the only life we have got; it is up to us to make it productive, peaceful and beautiful for all human beings. It is so easy to label someone as nonbeliever, apostate and blasphemer. Opportunities are denied to the humanist, secular and nonreligious citizens on all fronts. There is a perpetual atmosphere of fear and intimidation for us.  Our present oligarchy and puppet regime is totally blindfolded towards the harsh realities of life amidst pandemic. Those who believe in secular democratic and human values, like us, are already a cornered persecuted minority. Please, fellow humanist observers watch the ground situation in Afghanistan and its impact on Pakistan. It is quite scary and frightening to think again about Taliban attacks on civilians inside Pakistan.”

Union

Monthly Meeting

Monday 2 August 6.30pm until 9.00pm

Hate Speech Legislation

All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend.

Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Wellington

The Government has released for public consultation its proposed legislative changes of six Proposals for the laws governing Hate Speech. Submissions are due on 6 August. Humanist NZ has been discussing these changes and preparing a submission. There are already some other laws that apply to harmful speech including the Summary Offences Act 1981, the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015, the Harassment Act 1997 and the Films, Videos, and Publications Classifications Act 1993. None of what has been proposed in the discussion document is final – the ministry is seeking feedback and there’s no guarantee the law, if it is enacted, will look like this. At the moment it is not a law, it is not an Act, it is not yet a Bill. It is a discussion document aimed at seeking opinions before the Ministry of Justice comes up with a law change which was recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Mosque attacks. At this meeting we will present our thoughts and refine our submission.

Proposal 1: Who it applies to- The wording of both section 61 and the proposed new section 131 (see Proposal 2 below) would be changed so that they apply to communications aimed at certain groups of persons in or coming to Aotearoa New Zealand who are protected from discrimination by section 21 of the Human Rights Act.

Proposal 2. The (new) crime- It would be a crime to:

1. intentionally incite/stir up, maintain or normalise hatred,

2. against any group protected from discrimination by section 21 of the Human Rights Act,

3. through threatening, abusive or insulting communications, including inciting violence 4.

made by any means.

Proposal 3: The punishment– The new criminal provision in the Crimes Act would state that a person who commits the offence is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years’ imprisonment or to a fine not exceeding $50,000.

Proposal 4: Updating the civil provision- Under this proposal “stirring up, maintaining or normalising hatred” would be added to section 61 alongside “excite hostility” and “bring into contempt”. Any other changes to the provision have not been agreed and this would be looked at further after consultation. The current provision dates back to 1979 and if changes are agreed the new provision would be revised according to a modern drafting style.

Proposal 5: More updating of the civil provision- Under this proposal, section 61 would also make speech that is likely to cause incitement to discrimination unlawful, alongside:

1. the excitement of hostility

2. bringing into contempt, and

3. the stirring up, normalising or maintaining hatred

Proposal 6: Trans inclusion-Under this proposal, the ground of “sex” would be amended to also include, “sex characteristics and intersex status”. There would also be a new ground of “gender including gender expression and gender identity”.

There is expansion and discussion of these ideas on the RNZ website “Hate speech laws translated from legalese: What you need to know” https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/447207/hate-speech-laws-translated-from-legalese-what-you-need-to-know

Asylum Seekers History and Treatment Humanist NZ July 2021 meeting

“The treatment of asylum seekers is a basic test of humanity”

Our speakers for the July meeting Dr Julija Sardelic, lecturer in Political Science at Victoria University and Umesh Perinpanayagam, Advocacy Director with the Asylum Seekers Support Trust spoke with passion and concern for the situation of asylum seekers in New Zealand.  Dr Julija gave us a sketch of asylum processes since the World Wars of 1914 and 1939, and Umesh spoke about the present treatment of Asylum seekers in New Zealand.

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was published in 1948, a document coming out of the experience of two devastating world wars statement states: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” This Article was based on the specific experience of Europe in WWII and the atrocities of Nazism and Fascism.  WWII displaced 60 million people and lead to the creation in 1950 of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR, a UN agency mandated to aid and protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people, and to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. The 1951 Refugee Convention further defined a refugee as someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. In the early years of this displacement of the peoples of Europe, 200,000 refugees from Hungary were resettled. Australia granted asylum to 14,500 Hungarian refugees. New Zealand granted asylum to 1,100 Hungarian refugees. During the Cold War years, the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, granted asylum to 7,000 Vietnamese refugees. Sadly, Asylum and Refugee Policies have developed a troubling direction. After the Cold War, the protection of asylum seekers has been watered down. In the 1990s, former Yugoslav asylum seekers in many instances were not given refugee status but only temporary protection. A “crimmigration” approach to asylum developed. Asylum seekers began to be seen as a security risk. A conflation developed between criminals and asylum seekers. After 9/11, “securitization” of asylum seekers and refugees gained strength in the perception of government and public thought. Fear has developed as evident by the response to the Tampa refugees of 20 years ago and now the detention of asylum seekers on Manus and Christmas Island and other offshore detention centres of Australia. In 2015/2016 there has been the ‘Refugee Crisis in Europe’, as people fled Syria. In our own country, policy and law around Asylum Seekers are very similar to the detention policies of Australia. In May 2021 Amnesty International issued a report, “Take me to a Safe Place’: The imprisonment of asylum seekers in Aotearoa New Zealand” https://www.amnesty.org.nz/report-outlines-clear-human-rights-violations-asylum-seekers-govt . This report highlighted that from 2015-2020, 86 people seeking asylum had been locked in police cells and prisons around the country while they waited for the outcome of their refugee claim, despite the United Nations warning that this imprisonment should not take place. Action Station has a petition “Equal support for Convention Refugees” https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/equal-support-for-convention-refugees-1 created by the Asylum Seeker Equality Project of the Human Rights team, part of the Community Justice Project, a student-led initiative at Victoria University of Wellington’s Law School. Alongside the May 2021 Report Amnesty International have taken up the issue of asylum seekers in New Zealand with a petition: “People seeking asylum should be welcomed, not imprisoned.” https://www.amnesty.org.nz/ .

Humanism Radio Programme on Arrow 92.7FM change of time  

Tim Wright, a Humanist NZ committee member is hosting a Humanist Radio programme on the first Wednesday of the month at 9pm. The next Radio show is 9pm 4th August. It is available as a podcast 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 maybe contacted at tim@humanist.nz.

2021 Humanists International Online Conference “Humanism in times of Crisis” Saturday 14 August 14.00 BST: In NZ this is 1am until 5am (early morning) Sunday 15 August. Humanists International HI introduces this Conference: “2020 has been one of the toughest years ever for the global humanist community and for humanity as a whole. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic put to test our societies, our economies and our shared feeling of belonging. However, desperation and resignation did not prevail. Humanists all around the world stood true (and are still standing true) to the fundamental values of humanism, such as reason, science, democracy, and empathy. Thanks to global cooperation, investment in scientific research and individual efforts, humanity now sees a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. The 2021 Humanism Conference will be a moment to look back at the last two years of fight against the virus, praising the courage of humanist activists around the world and reflecting upon the importance of the humanist worldview in times of crisis like the one we are living in today.”

·  Speakers are: Prof Dinesh Raj Bhuju, SOCH Nepal, Opening Address after 2021 Cancellation of General Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal. Andrew Copson, President HI, “Together as One”- how the global humanist community responded to the pandemic, Asian Humanism Roundtable: how the pandemic is affecting the humanist community in six Asian countries:- Gulalai Ismail, Aware Girls, Pakistan, Bonya Ahmed, Think, Bangladesh, Dr Khagendra, SOCH Nepal, Narendra Nayak, FIRA India, Kristine Chan, Filipino Freethinkers, Rishvin Ismath, CEMSL, Sri Lanka. Steven Pinker “Enlightenment Now” How the pandemic is shaping our present and our future. Emma Wadesworth-Jones, Humanists at Risk Coordinator HI, Being a humanist at risk during a pandemic, statistics, highlights and successes.  

 Register at https://humanists.international/event/2021-humanism-conference/

·  2021 Humanists International General Assembly: will be held online on 15 August. This Zoom meeting is scheduled for 14.00 BST which in New Zealand time is 1am 16 August.   

Humanist NZ website: Our website – https://humanist.nz/  has been updated. Mark Honeychurch has worked on technical maintenance issues and given a bright brushed up new look. Do visit us, and feedback is welcomed.

Humanist NZ concern for Humanists at Risk: A letter outlining our concerns was sent to Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs on the 10 May 2021 which we published in the July 2021 Humanist NZ newsletter. We have received the following reply:

Tēnā koe Humanist NZ

Thank you for your email of 10 May 2021.

It is concerning to hear of those facing persecution because of their religious beliefs.

Aotearoa New Zealand is a strong supporter of the freedom of religion or belief, including the right to manifest one’s  or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance, and the right to change one’s religion or belief. Freedom of religion and belief is a priority for

Aotearoa New Zealand’s active engagement as reflected in New Zealand’s International Human Rights Action Plan.

We emphasise the close relationship between the right to freedom of religion or belief and the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the effect that mutual reinforcement of these rights has on combatting intolerance based on religion or belief.

We will continue to advocate for the protection and promotion of these human rights through bilateral, regional and multilateral advocacy.

Nāku noa

Hon Nanaia Mahuta

Minita Take Aorere / Minister of Foreign Affairs

Leo Igwe is 2021 Recipient of the Foundation Beyond Belief’s Heart of Humanism Award.

Announcement of Foundation Beyond Belief Winners of the 2020-21 Heart of Humanism Awards -July 26, 2021: FBB gives the annual Heart of Humanism awards to recognize sterling service from Beyond Belief Network teams, as well as individuals who make extraordinary contributions to compassionate humanism. 2020 with the Pandemic presented enormous challenges to humanists striving to making an impact in their communities.

Heart of Humanism Award: recognizes an individual who exemplifies humanist values. This year the recipient is Leo Igwe. Leo has been a friend of FBB for many years, having been pivotal in helping develop the programme that became Humanist Action: Ghana. Leo is a Board Member of Humanists International and the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Humanist Association of Nigeria.

For decades, Leo has been a human rights advocate in Africa, focusing on the rights of women and children accused of witchcraft and protecting people against harmful superstitious practices. He has continued this work in the face of persecution, harassment, and attacks. Leo founded Advocacy4Witches https://advocacyforallegedwitches.law.blog/ , an organisation to further the work to save people accused of witchcraft and bring these persons to places of safety.

Leo has been working tirelessly to secure the release of Mubarak Bala since his arrest in April 2020, and has provided support to Bala’s wife and son. His work on this campaign has included starting dialogues with religious groups for assistance; liaising with the media; and developing a campaign strategy with Humanists International. Most people in the US or UK who know about Bala’s case have heard about it as the direct result of this work.

Leo’s dedication to securing human rights on both individual and societal levels is an irrefutable example of humanist values in action. His endeavours take place in a context unimaginable to many people in the US, as Leo repeatedly risks his own safety in a quest for a more humanist world. FBB is honoured to recognize him for his commitment to justice.

Leo has recently begun a programme to promote Critical Thinking Skills in Nigeria’s Schools. Paul Fidalgo, has written the following article, Centre for Inquiry July 14, 2021

Free Thinking: For more than two decades, Leo Igwe has been a bright light of scepticism and humanism in Nigeria, particularly noted for his work to raise the world’s awareness of the devastating impacts of witchcraft belief and accusations in Africa. He recently held workshops for primary school teachers in Nigeria’s Oyo State, first-of-their-kind training sessions in critical thinking skills.

The first event on June 23 was a small one with five teachers in attendance. The second, on July 1, however, attracted at least fifty-six (organizers hoped thirty to forty would show up).

“The workshop was devoted to making teachers understand the importance of critical thinking and the need to begin early to nurture children and get pupils to think reflectively,” wrote Igwe at Modern Ghana.

He says that the current educational model in Nigeria merely asks students to be passive receptacles of information. “Many people graduate from schools with the habit of feeling offended or feeling personally attacked whenever their ideas, beliefs, or propositions are questioned.”

Igwe’s workshops were designed to help teachers to encourage a spirit of inquiry. “Students actively generate questions as the main exercise. Students ask questions for questions’ sake!

In AbaCityBlog.com Leo has written the following article Critical Thinking and Transformation of Teaching in Primary Schools https://abacityblog.com/critical-thinking-and-transformation-of-teaching-in-primary-schools/

“On July 1, 2021, I made a case for critical thinking in primary schools before teachers from state schools in Ibadan South-west local government in Nigeria. It was the first teacher training session on critical thinking for primary schools in the state. The organizers expected thirty to forty teachers, but at the end of the day, over fifty teachers attended the event. Critical reasoning skills cannot be delivered in schools without the support and cooperation of teachers. The workshop was devoted to making teachers understand the importance of critical thinking and the need to begin early to nurture children and get pupils to think reflectively.

The workshop impressed on teachers that critically thinking was among the top 10 skills that employers look for. So, teaching critical reasoning skills is a way to prepare today’s pupils for tomorrow’s jobs. Critical thinking should form a part of the basic primary education program. The organizers used the workshop to draw the attention of school teachers to a provision in the national policy on education that stresses the inculcation of critical thinking. In fact, it is stated on page ten of the national policy on education that one of the aims of primary education is to lay a sound foundation for scientific, reflective, and critical thinking. So, fostering critical thinking is already embedded in the educational policy of the country. Unfortunately, there are no textbooks or materials to lay this solid foundation and fulfil this important need. The ongoing critical thinking project aims to fill in this gap and provide materials to foster critical reasoning skills in schools.

It should be acknowledged that there are efforts to promote reasoning skills in primary schools. But these initiatives are insufficient. They mainly focus on quantitative and verbal reasoning skills. While quantitative reasoning emphasizes the application of basic mathematical skills and solving quantitative problems, verbal reasoning seeks to nurture the ability to solve problems expressed in words. Missing in the primary school program is a subject that encourages the exercise of students’ critical and evaluative abilities. There is no ample provision for pupils to ask probing questions and interrogate ideas including whatever they see, hear, touch, taste, smell, or feel. There is so much emphasis on rote learning. Students are taught to memorize information and to reproduce whatever they are taught during examinations. Questions are posed to test the understanding of whatever is taught. Questions are posed for answers’ sake. Students are not taught to question ideas for questions’ sake. The habit of questioning ideas is not encouraged. The culture in classrooms is that teachers pose questions and students supply answers. At the end of the day, students become passive receivers of information, not active processors of whatever is taught in classroom. So children graduate from schools afraid to question ideas or authority, reluctant to interrogate established knowledge or critically examine whatever they are taught or told. Many people graduate from schools with the habit of feeling offended or feeling personally attacked whenever their ideas, beliefs, or propositions are questioned. The training sessions made a case for a change in this mode of teaching and learning in primary schools. It drew attention to the need for a review of the role of teachers and students in the leaning process. In critical thinking classes, teachers provoke and stimulate questions. Students actively generate questions as the main exercise. Students ask questions for questions’ sake!

Thus, the current critical reasoning program requires pupils to generate a certain number of questions following a certain model or example. There is a provision for an additional exercise. In this case, the pupils are expected to apply the model to their immediate environment or to carry out the exercise using familiar objects, images, and things. There is also a provision for an exercise in other languages. In this case, the pupils are expected to perform the same exercise in languages other than English or in languages other than the language of instruction, as the case may be. Critical reasoning is an invitation to students to freely exercise and apply their curiosity and inquisitiveness in all areas of human endeavour .

At a time that there is so much rot and decay in the educational system and going to school has become an exercise in acquisition of certificates and degrees, not a cultivation of requisite knowledge and skills. At a time that the school system is turning out youths who end up unemployed and unemployable due to a lack of functional and effective education, critical thinking is set to transform the culture of teaching and learning in schools.