Kia ora: Humanist NZ wishes our humanist friends refreshing and relaxing days over the summer. The world is a different place to that which we enjoyed when we sent out the March 2020 newsletter. Covid-19 has changed our world. Can we rebuild a world with equality and compassion? Mubarak Bala, President of the Nigerian Humanist Society, is still in detention after more than 200 days waiting for a ruling on his case to be delivered by the Abuja High Court on Human Rights Day, 10 December. Humanists International (HI) is also concerned about free thinker Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian academic and researcher in Disaster Medicine who is sentenced to death in Iran on false charges of espionage. His execution is imminent. In response to a HI request to global humanist groups, Humanist NZ has written to the New Zealand Iranian Embassy asking that this execution is halted. We have also alerted Nanaia Mahuta, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, to this situation.

·         Monthly Meeting

Monday 7 December 6.30pm until 9.00pm

Secular Christmas Meetup & Isaac Newton Quiz-born 25 December 1642

Our final meeting for the year will be a gathering to chat and relax and work through a quiz on Isaac Newton, born 25 December – 378 years ago. Isaac Newton was a key figure in the Scientific Revolution, which took place in Europe towards the end of the Renaissance period and continued through the late 18th century, influencing the intellectual social movement known as the Enlightenment.

Christmas was first celebrated in Europe as a major festival during the Early Middle Ages. It was preceded by pagan winter festivals such as Saturnalia and Yule. Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn who was a major god presiding over agriculture and the harvest. Yule was a festival observed by the ancient Germanic people. Across Europe these festivals developed during the cold and dark Northern Hemisphere winter. Close to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, it was a time to gather and look forward to longer days and the advent of spring. Both these festivals underwent Christianised reformulation and became a celebration of the birth of Jesus. For Humanists Christmas has become a time for gathering with family and in New Zealand as the festival has been transplanted into the Summer season it is a time to relax and holiday after a busy year. In 2016 Humanists UK commissioned some research to determine how people in Britain defined Christmas. This research is presented in an article included with this newsletter.

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

Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Wellington

·  Darwin Day Friday 12 February 2021: for our first meetup for 2021 we will join with Skeptics in the Pub to celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin at the Intercontinental Hotel, Wellington. Watch out for Event details on the Humanist NZ Facebook page.

·  Monthly meetings 2021: Our 2021 meetings will resume on the first Monday of the month on Monday 1 March 2021 at the Thistle Inn. A newsletter will precede this meeting.

Non-Religious Pastoral Care: Planning is proceeding with this Humanist project. Thank you to the people who have already responded to our request for expressions of interest earlier this year. We will be in touch once planning is finalised. We are working towards a training programme in 2021. If you have not already indicated your interest in joining this programme to train as a non -religious Pastoral Care volunteer please email secretary@humanist.nz

·  Freedom of Thought Report 2020: The 2020 launch of the Freedom of Thought Report will be live-streamed on Facebook on Thursday 10 December at 15.00 (3pm) UTC. For New Zealand this is 4.00 (4am) Friday 11 December.

Speakers will be:

Andrew Copson President, Humanists International

Andrew is the Chief Executive of Humanists UK. He became Chief Executive in 2010 after five years coordinating Humanists UK’s education and public affairs work. Andrew is also the current President of Humanists International.

Together with A C Grayling, Andrew edited the Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism (2015) and he is the author of Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2017). He has written on humanist and secularist issues for The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, and New Statesman and co-authored with Alice Roberts The Little Book of Humanism (2020).

Dr Ahmed Shaheed UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Ahmed Shaheed assumed his mandate as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief on 1 November 2016.

Mr. Shaheed is Deputy Director of the Essex Human Rights Centre. He was the first Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran since the termination of the previous Commission on Human Rights mandate in 2002.

Emma Wadsworth-Jones Casework & Campaigns Manager, Humanists International

Emma joined Humanists International as its first Humanists at Risk Coordinator in April 2020. She is responsible for managing Humanists International’s casework and campaigning activities on behalf of humanists at risk, working in coordination with the rest of the team, and our members and partners.

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir Mauritanian blogger and anti-slavery activist

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir is a Mauritanian blogger who was a political prisoner from 2014 to 2019. He was sentenced to death for ‘apostasy’ after he wrote an article critical of Islam and the caste system in Mauritania, after which he became a designated prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. Humanists International launched a campaign in 2014 to advocate for his release, and following a 6-year campaign were involved in negotiating his release with authorities in Mauritania.

He now lives in exile in France due to concerns for his safety.

Debbie Goddard Vice-President, American Atheists, Board member Humanists International

Debbie Goddard has over two decades of experience as an organizer and activist. She became involved with the secular movement as a college student in 2000 and attended atheist, freethinker, humanist, and skeptic group meetings in Philadelphia, New York City, New Jersey, and central Pennsylvania.

She also directed African Americans for Humanism. In 2012, she led a notable billboard and ad campaign featuring black atheists, and in 2009, she coordinated an international campaign highlighting blasphemy laws and free expression.

Rev Frederick A. Davie Commissioner of The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Frederick A. Davie is the Executive Vice President of the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, where he serves as an advisor to the President for the structure and administration of the executive office, strategic planning, institutional advancement, and vision implementation. He is also the chief administrative officer at the Union Theological Seminary.

Davie served on President Barack Obama’s transition team, performing agency reviews for faith-based and community initiatives, and accepted an appointment by President Obama to the White House Council on Faith-based and Neighbourhood Partnerships. Davie provided leadership for the inclusion of non-traditional families and marginalized populations in policy formation.

For more detail see :https://humanists.international/2020/11/launch-of-the-freedom-of-thought-report-2020/

The idea for a global report on anti-atheist discrimination was first suggested by the US State Department Office for International Religious Freedom. In the spring of 2012, the American Humanist Association (AHA) met with the Office to raise concerns about discrimination and human rights violations directed against people because of their Humanism, atheism or lack of religion. The Office responded by asking the AHA to submit a detailed international report on such discrimination.

The first edition of the Freedom of Thought Report was published in 2012 and covered 60 countries, but it was thought that until the report had truly global scope many serious problems faced by the non-religious were being omitted. So Humanist International worked to expand the 2013 report and since then it has included every country on the planet, as well as a rating system to assess the status of the country.

The AHA invited the Centre for Inquiry, Humanists International (then known as International Humanist and Ethical Union), Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and Secular Coalition for America to work together on a joint report. These organizations drew on their expertise, and their global networks of groups and contacts, to create a 40-page report, covering nearly 40 nations around the world.

On August 8, 2012 representatives of these five groups visited the US State Department to meet with the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and to present the “2012 Report on Discrimination Against Atheists, Humanists and the Non-Religious”.

Humanists International with the support of existing partners and consulting with Member Organisations in countries around the world, then revised and expanded the report to almost twice the size. Humanists International launched this new edition for an international audience on Human Rights Day (December 10), 2012, as “Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination against Humanists, Atheists and the Non-Religious”, intended as the first in a series of annual reports on the same topic.

Humanists International believe it is important to document discriminatory national laws and state authorities which violate freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression. As well as affecting the overtly nonreligious, such as atheists and humanists, such systemic discrimination also often affects religious people, in particular minorities and non-conformists, and the unaffiliated (those who hold no particular worldview or religion).

In 2016 Humanists International introduced the Online Edition of the report. Now the ninth edition of the Freedom of Thought Report 2020 is to be launched on Human Rights Day December 10 2020.

This year, the thematic focus of the Report is COVID-19, and its impact on non-religious people globally.

Friends, family, food, and giving – the real meaning of Christmas revealed

Humanists UK survey December 16th, 2016

Spending time with family, giving presents, and food and drink: these three things define Christmas for most people in Britain, according to new research by YouGov commissioned by the British Humanist Association (BHA). The research showed that 91% of the British population celebrate Christmas in some shape or form, but that only 1 in 5 Brits (22%) said that celebrating the birth of Christ makes Christmas an important time, suggesting that Christmas has become a fundamentally secular festival for most.

The survey asked people for which, if any, of twelve possible reasons Christmas is important to them and people could select as many reasons as they wished. Attending a religious service was the least selected response (15%) and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ was the second-least selected (22%). This is compared with 76% who identified Christmas with spending time with family and 63% who said giving presents to friends and/or family was important.

In a rebuke to those who claim that a non-religious Christmas is a more selfish one, more people (63%) said that giving presents was important to them, compared to receiving them (39%), and it was the intangible ‘Spending time with family’ that topped the whole list.

When asked what makes Christmas an important time of the year, the responses were:

Ø  Spending time with family (76%)

Ø  Giving presents to friends/family (63%)

Ø  Eating Christmas food and/ or drinking Christmas drinks (57%)

Ø  Putting up Christmas lights and decorations (48%)

Ø  Being cosy indoors during the cold Christmas weather (46%)

Ø  Upholding family Christmas traditions (40%)

Ø  Receiving presents from friends/ family (39%)

Ø  Spending time with friends (38%)

Ø  Watching Christmas television (36%)

Ø  Having time off work to relax (32%)

Ø  Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ (22%)

Ø  Attending a religious service(s) (15%)

Ø  Other (2%)

Ø  Don’t know (0%)

Ø  Not applicable – nothing in particular makes Christmas an important time of year to me (2%)

Responding to the results, BHA President Shappi Khorsandi said,

‘Far from being a Christian festival under threat, Christmas is a much-loved time of year appreciated by people from all walks of life. Around this time of year, we tend to hear complaints in the press that Christmas is coming under attack, but there’s no evidence of this. The things that make this time of year special – family, friends, presents, food and drink, and being together – are just as important to us all as they’ve ever been.’

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson added

‘Humans across Europe have gathered together at the darkest and coldest time of the year to feast and appreciate each other’s company in the warm since long before Christianity. Sometimes the charge is levelled at humanists that to celebrate Christmas is hypocritical, but this research puts that myth to bed. For an overwhelming majority of people in Britain, this time of year has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with celebrating the life we have with the people we love.’                                 r