Kia ora: 2022 is coming to a close and Humanist NZ wishes all humanist friends in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world a refreshing and relaxing holiday break. In 2023 we can hope that Mubarak Bala is released from his illegal detention. We can hope for peace in Ukraine, and that Iranian protestors can bring change to the Iranian Islamic Republic. However, there are already clouds on the 2023 horizon. In Aotearoa New Zealand we have two issues of concern – Hate Speech Law and Religious Instruction in Schools. These two issues are expanded below in the body of the newsletter. The newsletter will reappear in March 2023.
December monthly meeting:
Saturday 3 December High Tea @ Carterton 2pm
Our final meeting will be a get together at our President Tim Wright’s home in Carterton. An opportunity to relax and anticipate the coming holiday season. Bring your favourite culinary taste sensation and we can enjoy the sunny Wairarapa. For address and directions please RSVP to Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome.
Humanists NZ – Palmerston North/Papaioea’s Festival of Ideas speakers programme kicked off with Anne Chrisp, an Anglican priest and spiritual director, being the inaugural speaker. Anne, via Zoom, shared many deep points about her spiritual journey and we hope to hear from her again. Covid has made an impact on the programme but we look forward enthusiastically to 2023. To be in touch with this group, information is on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PalmyHumanists. Or email co-ordinator Keith at email@example.com
The 2022 New Zealand Skeptics Conference, back in person for the first time since 2019!
There is still time to register – all you need to know at https://conference.skeptics.nz/
When? On the weekend of the 25th to 27th of November. An entire weekend of skeptical talks from knowledgeable, engaging speakers – running from 9am to 5pm on Saturday, and 9am to 4pm on Sunday, plus an informal meal at a local restaurant on the Saturday.
Where? Our venue for the weekend is the Tararua Tramping Club in central Wellington, just off Kent and Cambridge Terraces.
Who? We’ve lined up some great speakers to talk to us about a wide range of interesting skeptical topics.
How Much? It’s a bargain! For the low price of $10 9 for an entire
meeting on Iran weekend of talks, or $60 for a single day – plus a Friday evening of fun and entertainment – this is about as far from a scam as you can get!
Mubarak Bala, Humanist Society of Nigeria, detained in prison 1001 days by the end of January 2023: As we return from our summer holiday break and students return to school, Mubarak will have been illegally detained for 1001 days. Below are two YouTube links detailing Mubarak’s detention.
The Dangers of Being an Atheist in Africa ~ Mubarak Bala https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aR9HhxzoGA
The cost of being an atheist (Documentary) – BBC Africa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoHCqjR-Dts
The Facebook page Free Mubarak Bala maintains a daily vigil to advocate for Mubarak’s release.
Book Review: There was a garden in Nuremberg (2022) Navina Michal Clemerson
With so much surrounding us as 2022 ends, the war in Ukraine and the terrible actions of the Iranian Islamic Republic against protestors who protest the barbaric arrest and death of Mahsa Amini for the incorrect wearing of the hijab, Navina’s novel about her Jewish family’s persecution by the Nazis of Hitler’s Germany brings a human face to the devastation that is wrought by humans on other humans. Peter Clemerson, Navina’s husband has been a member of our Humanist NZ committee and the personal connection intensifies the effect of Navina’s writing about her family’s persecution for simply being Jewish. From the safety of our island home, the awfulness of persecution in any form, in distant places can be hard to grasp. Navina’s story brings a reality that is humbling for us, who live mostly safely, far removed from danger. There was a garden in Nuremberg is now available in bookshops and also through Amazon.
GOVERNMENT PLANS TO RETAIN RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION IN NEW SCHOOL POLICY
The Ministry of Education has released its Education Report: An update on the conversation about religion in schools. This 68 page document can be found at https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21ALO6wz8DyiM5PhA&cid=ECEEA883C46DC001&id=ECEEA883C46DC001%2154027&parId=ECEEA883C46DC001%2154024&o=OneUp
David Hines has posted the following on the Secular Education Network Facebook page.
“The government has released its new education policy and regrettably Religious Instruction is still part of it. SEN members will recall the start of this policy. In July 2020 Prof Paul Morris did a survey and many of us took part. It showed 70% support for getting rid of Religious Instruction, but Prof Morris ignored it. It showed a worldwide swing from Religious Instruction to neutral Religious Studies (we used to call this Religious Education: same idea, different name). He ignored that too.
This was ticked off by Chris Hipkins near the end of 2021, but has been kept under wraps till now, waiting for Cabinet to sign it I think. Key words are in ink and hardly legible.
Religious Studies have been under trial since early this year, covering numerous religions. It’s going to be part of the regular NZ Curriculum, but compulsory for junior classes. Similar stuff has already been taught in patchy style.
Teaching about atheism is NOT part of it.
At secondary schools there will be optional religious studies as a separate subject.
It will all be monitored by a committee which will develop in consultation with experts and religious communities.
Atheists will NOT be part of it.
Religious groups will be invited to tell their stories. Muslims have already written a number of them.
That’s the guts of it.
As in another post, I’ll be hosting a panel of non-religious and religious leaders to discuss it, and the date is now confirmed as December 11. It’ll be open to the public and on Zoom. I believe most if not all of this panel will be wild about the cop-out on Religious Instruction.”
HATE SPEECH LAW
It was most disappointing to hear the announcement by the Minister of Justice Kiri Allen that the Government has watered down its hate speech reforms. Currently, under the Human Rights Act 1993 it is illegal to publish or distribute threatening, abusive, or insulting words likely to “excite hostility against” or “bring into contempt” any group on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins. Those grounds will now be extended, in both the civil and criminal provisions, to cover religious belief. Groups left out are the rainbow community, the transgender community and those with disabilities. Humanist NZ is concerned that the addition of religion is a returning to a Blasphemy Law which was repealed in New Zealand in 2019. The inclusion of religious communities is excluding communities of people with no belief in a supernatural god.
In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, Article 18 states: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
In the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ICCPR, Article 18 states: Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance. practice and teaching.
In the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990, Article 13 states: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.
Communities of Religion and Communities of Belief cannot be separated out under any circumstances. To protect Religion is to also protect Belief.
In 2017, in a keynote address at the Humanists International General Assembly, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, spoke of the extreme nature of some of the violence visited upon atheists and Humanists. During this speech, he said:
“There is, I think, thanks to the reports published, growing awareness of the plight of Humanists around the world. So, you find the UN supporting an increasing focus on Humanists. I also want to stress that in my observations, Humanists – when they are attacked – they are attacked far more viciously and brutally than I think in other cases. It’s partly because there is this conception that Humanists require no protection. So, this is one dimension that I’m very concerned about: the brutality with which social hostilities are visited upon Humanists the world over. You will not find this kind of viciousness in attacks on other communities. Of course, the Baha’i and Ahmadis face very serious violations, but I think if you look at specific cases the brutality with which Humanists and atheists are attacked exceeds other forms of viciousness that I have come across.”
In December 2020 at the launch of the ninth edition of the Humanists International Freedom of Thought Report Dr Ahmed Shaheed again said: “Humanists are the invisible people of the present 21st century. While almost everybody is persecuted when they are in a minority, the attacks on Humanists are particularly violent. They are exposed to harm in the communities where they live, and of course, for many of them, the family is not a safe place.”
Iran and the Protests against the Islamic Republic:
Senior Lecturer Dr Negar Partow from Massey’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies writes about the recent United Nations Security Council meeting that addressed the actions of the Iranian Islamic Republic, Wednesday 9 November 2022
Dr Negar Partow spoke to us in March 2019 on the subject ‘Atheism in Islam’
In a joint statement, Canada, Australia and New Zealand raised major concern over the deterioration of human rights in Iran and the violent treatment of women and girls by the Islamic Republic. They asked the international community to support the people of Iran and “grant access to the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, to provide transparency and facilitate accountability on human rights concerns.” They called for the termination of the Islamic Republic’s membership in the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women due to the regime’s gross violation of women rights.
The UN Security Council Arria formula meeting was co-hosted by the United States and Albania on 3 November, to draw attention to the ongoing violent attacks on peaceful protests, the oppression of women and girls, members of religious and ethnic minorities, and the rainbow community of Ira
Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Shirin Ebadi, Iranian Human Rights Defender and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and Nazanin Boniadi, Human Rights Activist spoke at the conference about the unlawful use of force against the peaceful protesters that began after the killing of Mahsa Jina Amini by security forces in Iran. All speakers considered the Islamic Republic as a regime that lacks any interest or capacity for reform.
Back in September, when the protests against Mahsa’s killing began, the international community considered this mostly as a matter of internal politics, but when the extent of the regime’s violence was exposed to the world by Iranians inside and outside of Iran, the global opinion was shifted. As Nazanin Bonyadi stated in her speech at the meeting, Iranians tried to negotiate and reform strategies with the Islamic Republic for many years and are convinced that in this regime, reform is impossible. The Islamic Republic’s history of torture, execution, gender-based violence and oppression of ethnic and religious minorities attest to this resistance to reform.
The Islamic Republic’s breach of international norms is not exclusive to its violation of human rights, and extends to its involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict as well as supporting militias across the Middle East and threatening Iran’s neighbours. On 2 November, the United States raised concern over threats from Iran against Saudi Arabia, after the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami, warned Saudis for their support of the coverage of protests through a Farsi language Saudi-backed television channel in London.
From September to November, the nuclear negotiations were deemed unsuccessful, and dissatisfaction with the Islamic Republic’s support of Russia multiplied. The poverty rate in Iran peaked at over 10 percent and Iran’s currency lost significant value. As a result of the ongoing protest that has led to widespread strikes in Iran’s oil and industry sectors, Iran’s stock market lost all its value and collapsed in late October.
During this time, the cost of security for the Islamic Republic increased significantly. This is the direct result of the securitisation of politics, which is its dominant political trend. Since its inception, the Islamic Republic has pursued a one-party political system. Even this system, however, became the subject of securitisation. By 2005, the conservative faction of the regime expelled the reformists out of power and gradually tightened the circle of the elites.
Over the years, the securitisation of politics has made the regime rely exclusively on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Basij, the security forces, both of which are under direct control of Khamenei. Since September, the regime has been using both forces to suppress the growing demonstrations and protests across Iran.
These operations, from intimating and beating people in the streets, to kidnapping protestors, monitoring hospitals and paramedics, arresting lawyers and doctors, patrolling streets and attacking schools, are costly.
The IRGC and Basij also became the dominant voice in the regime’s foreign affairs and under the leadership of Ghasim Soleimani made numerous operations outside Iran. Maintaining their connections cost more when the regime is under so much pressure and struggling to survive.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting highlighted not only the violence that the Islamic Republic exercises inside Iran, but also the threats it poses to the region. As it has lost legitimacy inside Iran and its brutality has been exposed to the international community, the regime will look for an external conflict and their attempt spreads insecurity across the region. Whether their target is Saudi Arabia, or the Kurdistan of Iraq or Azerbaijan, by becoming a security threat, the Islamic Republic has become a threat to the international community that no longer could be ignored.
Gaining access to Iran for the UN envoy for Human Rights and conducting an international inquiry focused on the Islamic Republic’s violent operation of women and protestors will expose how systematic ‘gender-apartheid’ and security threats to the region have been sustained through corruption and criminal activity, and is funded by usurping Iran’s resources for expanding its oppression machine.
While it is very possible that in its final months the audacity of its corruption and deceiving strategies grow, after the UNSC meeting, every step that the regime takes is a move toward self-destruction. The termination of the Islamic Republic’s membership from the UN committee on the Situation of Women, is a global recognition of its gender-based violence and further isolates the regime in the international community.
Request for Animation/Documentary Assistance: ‘Voice of Iranians’, a newly formed organisation based in Auckland, protesting the Iranian regime, are negotiating making a documentary about the troubles in Iran. This group is also planning a two-minute animation about 10-year-old Kian Pirfalak, who was killed on 16 November, as anger over Mahsa Amini transforms into wider protest against the regime. If you have animation skill or could help with funding, please contact Cyrus 0210506450.
Ukraine and Russia, Putin’s war creates schism in Russian Orthodox Church
The War of Two Cupolas, article by Pierre Gueguen, first published in La Raison ( Mensuel de la Libre Pensee), No, 675, October 2022 ( translated from the French by Peter Bacos, Humanist NZ member)
2019: the year of schism and the march to war
Third confession Christian with its 280 million faithful (12% of the worldwide Christian community), the Orthodox Church includes churches autocephalic which elect their own patriarchs, the most recent being that of the Ukraine, and churches autonomous, without speaking of churches not recognized for various reasons. So, up to the year 2018, year of the foundation of the autocephalic church of Ukraine under the clerical nationalist impulse of the billionaire Petro Porochenko, then president of Ukraine (and today condemned for massive corruption and high treason) there existed three principal churches dependent on the Patriarchate of Moscow. Putin’s war creates schism in Russian Orthodox Church “This sacred day will go down in history as that of the creation of a united autocephalic church in the Ukraine. It is the day of our definitive independence in relation to Russia,” has declared Porochenko before several thousand partisans assembled from the morning onwards before the cathedral, despite the winter cold.
Two weeks later, 5 January 2019, after a prayer pronounced in the patriarchal church of Saint George at Istanbul, Bartholomew, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople recognizes the canonical independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. President Porochenko and other Ukrainian politicians, decidedly penetrated with a new religious fervour took part in the ceremony. As to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow he is condemned outright, then proclaimed a heretic in May 2022 by the enlarged synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for his support, without reservation, of the “special operation,” launched in February by President Putin of Russia.
The gift of the ubiquity of God accompanies itself with a particular oddity in times of war. “God is with us,” proclaim the leaders of each belligerent nation calling for the protection of the God of War to assure the final victory over the enemy, while the military chaplains of the said enemy psalmodize with identical incantations towards the indifferent heavens. From this point of view nothing has changed since 28 October 312, on the eve of the battle of the Milvian Bridge on the Tiber, when the emperor Constantine believed to see in the stars the chrism announcing to him the victory over the armies of his rival, the emperor Maxentius. Nearly two thousand years later, early in the morning, 24 February 2022, Russian forces crossed the frontier to invade the Ukraine, blessed by the priests of the Patriarchate of Moscow. Opposite, the units of the Ukrainian army were not slow to seek divine protection either, blessed as they were by the priests of the Patriarchate of Kyiv. God does not concern himself with detail; in the weeks that followed, on both sides the dead and injured could be numbered in their thousands.
Sodom and Gomorrah
In the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Sunday 6 March 2022, the Patriarch of Moscow and of all the Russians, addresses himself beyond the assembly, to the Russian people and the army, explaining that the, “special operational,” is in fact a holy crusade against Evil. His sermon recalls the discourse politico – religious of President George W Bush in January 2002 after the attacks on the World Trade Centre, 21 September 2001, in which he transforms the Second Gulf War into a confrontation between the Axis of Good, “the civilised world,” and the Axis of Evil, “the enemies of the free world.” The Patriarch Kirill has even wanted to elevate the reflection to the metaphysical level and has found in the Bible (Leviticus, 20:13) an apocalyptic argument: “If a man sleeps with a man as one sleeps with a woman, they have both of them done a thing abominable; they will be punished with death and their blood will fall on them.” Listen to the holy man: “That which takes place today does not come uniquely from politics. It is a question of the salvation of man, of the place that he will occupy to the right or left of the Redeemer. For eight years one tries to destroy what exists in the Donbass
. And in the Donbass. there is a rejection, a fundamental rejection of the so-called values which are proposed today by those who claim world power. Today there exists a test of loyalty towards this power, a sort of permit towards this, “happy,” world, a world of excessive consummation, a world of apparent, “liberty.” Do you know what this test is? The test is very simple and at the same time terrifying: it is a question of gay pride parades. The request by numerous countries to organise a gay pride parade is a test of loyalty towards this very powerful world, and we know that if people or countries reject these demands they are then excluded from this world as pariahs. But we know what this sin, promoted by the, “pride marches.” is. It is a sin which is condemned by the word of God, as much by the Old as the New Testament. If humanity accepts that sin is not a violation of the law of God, if humanity accepts that sin may be a variant of human behaviour, then human civilization will stop there. And the pride marches are reputed to demonstrate that sin is a variant of human behaviour. It is why it is necessary to organise a gay pride march to enter into the club of these nations. It is then a question of imposing by force the sin which is condemned by the law of God, that is to say by imposing by force on people the negation of God and of his truth. We are engaged in a struggle which does not have a physical significance, but metaphysical. We say to ourselves simply: we will be faithful to the word of God, we will be faithful to his law, we will be faithful to the word of love and of justice, and if we see violations of this law, we will never support those who destroy this law, in effacing the line of demarcation between sanctity and sin, and especially those who promote the sin as a model of human behaviour.”
The Patriarch of Moscow is not ungrateful; he knows how to pay homage to the master of the Kremlin, and not only because they are both of them former colleagues of the secret police, the KGB. One learnt in effect in 2019 that the Russian church was going to find itself at the head of an, “Orthodox Vatican,” financed on public funds close to Moscow. A pharaonic project. “The 27 June 2019, the authorities of the town of Serguiev Possad, 70 kms (about 43.5 mi) from Moscow, have allocated between 120 – 140 billion roubles (maybe 2 billion Euros) for the project of the reconstruction of the town centre and its transformation into a religious, cultural and touristic centre, inspired on the model of the Vatican, Jerusalem or Mecca.
The Russian invasion of the Ukraine includes then an undeniable religious dimension connected to the fanatical political will of the reinforcement of national identity on both sides of the war. The permanent armed conflict between the Axis of Good and the Axis of Evil is a war of religion which does not say its name and which risks bringing back all the nations concerned to the stone age, to quote the sinister expression of James Baker, Secretary of State of George W Bush, with regard to Iraq. The Ukraine – of which the name comes from, “Okpanha,” – meaning the limit or the confines of a territory, in brief that which one calls also a march has, like Belorussia a history in osmosis on all levels with that of Russia and, in the course of the centuries with that also of Lithuania, Poland, the Austro–Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Any nation has one or several marches which have been, indeed are always the object of the covetousness of neighbouring nations. Very often their lands are stained with the blood of poor peasants forcibly enrolled by the powerful, with the blood of populations decimated in the course of the centuries by raids and bombardments. Religion carried to the extreme in the service of the state, like capitalism, bears within it the seeds of war as the cloud carries the storm.
Don’t believe that the Vatican was occupied during this time only by its internal intrigues and criminal scandals! In 2017 Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, mandated by the Pope met Kirill and Putin and came back satisfied from a dialogue, “patient, constructive and respectful.” At Moscow the Patriarchate estimated that the time had come, “to act in a joint manner to defend the ideals of the Gospels.”
The Decline of Courage, the bedside reading of Kirill?
The Decline of Courage is the title of a celebrated discourse that Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered before students at Harvard University,8 June 1978. If George W Bush and the neo- conservatives have inspired in the Patriarch of Moscow the idea of the struggle between good and evil in order to justify the invasion of the Ukraine, Solzhenitsyn has certainly furnished, “the substantial marrow,” of its words for him. In effect, confronting in some sort of way, homo economicus and homo sovieticus, he develops the idea that the extolment of individual rights in capitalist regimes has favoured an abandonment of the notion of duties and a spiritual failure of the “free world.” As a result of which he concludes it is the absolute necessity for a, “new anthropologic stage,” that is to say the refusal of mediocrity, the fruit of the excess of democratic liberties in order to permit the accession of a new man. But which one? Solzhenitsyn explains. “It is universally admitted that the West shows the path to the whole world of successful economic development. I hope that no-one here will suspect me of expressing a criticism of the western system in order to suggest socialism as an alternative. But, on the other hand, if one imagined me capable of proposing the West in its current state as a model for my country it would be necessary for me in all honesty to reply in the negative. No, I would not take your society as a model for the transformation of mine.”
So, for Solzhenitsyn the man of the future is neither homo economicus nor homo sovieticus. He continues and reveals a line of thought totally anti–Enlightenment. “The forces of evil have commenced their decisive offensive. You feel already the pressure that they exercise, and however your screens and your writings are full of smiles at the click of a button and raised glasses. Why all this joy? How has the West been able to decline from its triumphal march to its present debility? The error is at the route, at the foundation of modern thought. I speak of the vision of the world which has prevailed in the West at the modern epoch. I speak of the vision of the world which has prevailed in the West, born at the Renaissance, and of which political developments have manifested themselves from the Enlightenment. It has become the political and social basis of the doctrine which could be called rationalist humanism or humanist autonomy: the autonomy proclaimed and practised of man against any force superior to it. One may also speak of anthropocentrism; man is seen at the centre of everything.”
And if the human is at the centre of everything, God is nowhere: the West has defended with overwhelming success the rights of man, but man has seen completely fade the conscience of his responsibility towards God and society. In these last decades this egoism of western philosophy has been definitively realised and the world finds itself in a cruel spiritual crisis and in a political impasse. So long as we will wake up each morning under a peaceful sky, our life will be inevitably woven with daily banalities. But it is a catastrophe which is present already for many of us. I wish to speak of the disaster of a humanist conscience perfectly autonomous and irreligious.
The pious and radiant future is homo religious! Here is the work of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, from now on daily bread of the metaphysical thoughts of Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow with tastes for luxury like all the oligarchs Russian, Ukrainian, American, British, French, etc. Lord, have mercy on your servant, he will perhaps never see his, “pharaonic Orthodox Vatican,” at the rate things are proceeding in this rich and beautiful region of the world torn by war and corruption and of which the brother peoples are dedicated to suffer an immense social………But until when?
Another article of interest is Another Ukraine war: The role of the Orthodox churches https://www.dw.com/en/ukraine-war-the-role-of-the-orthodox-churches/a-61063614