Humanist NZ Newsletter July 2022
Humanist NZ Newsletter July 2022
Kia ora: It was distressing to wake to news of deaths resulting from a Russian double missile strike on a crowded shopping centre in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchujk. The consequences of this Russian invasion of Ukraine, and all war, are devastating. I remember reading and hearing the words-‘Never again’- in relation to World War I and II, and here we are.
The decision of the USA Supreme Court to over-turn Roe vs Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling which protected a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion is a denial of the rights of women to good health care during pregnancy. It is suggested by commentators that the Supreme Court may now turn its attention to overturning contraception and same-sex marriage rulings which have been advances in understanding and social justice over the last decades. Such a reversal of hard-won human rights is incomprehensible.
When the possibility of the overturn of Roe v Wade first emerged in April, Tim Wright, our Humanist NZ chairperson penned a few words:
“I’m a white-passing CIS male. This means I’ll never know the personal experience of getting pregnant and having to make the decision to have a child or abort. I can only imagine how hard that decision is. Or maybe, depending on your circumstances, it might be a super easy decision. In any case, I trust you to make the decision that is best for you in your unique circumstances.
For me, this is what the argument for abortion rights comes down to. There are lots of economic arguments I’ve seen going round. And lots of comments about the length of time before a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or foetus is human, and comments about the cases of pregnancy resulting from sexual violence or incest. While these are all important considerations, to some extent these are all red herrings. In my mind, the thing that matters is: do we trust women to make the best decision in their circumstances? If we trust women, then we should have liberal abortion laws that give women the freedom to decide what is right for them. If we do not trust women then we should have laws that regulate the conditions when abortions are allowed.
And I trust women.
The position of the Humanist NZ remains the same. In our submission on abortion law reform in 2019, we wrote:
Humanist NZ campaigns in favour of women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Our position on abortion is ‘pro-choice’, the right of a woman alone to choose to have an abortion. We believe that contraception and high-quality, comprehensive sex and relationships education should be widely and freely available. We support families, including the right of parents to plan their families, and want every child to be a planned and wanted child.
Access to free, safe, legal, and timely abortion on request when needed is a humanist position supported by hundreds of Humanist organisations around the world.
And finally, we are interested in this potential change in USA law for two reasons:
We believe that this change will embolden people who don’t trust women to try to change the laws in other countries, New Zealand?
We stand with women around the world”.
And in our own country, the bullying, death threats and verbal attacks of students supporting the LGBTQIA+ community at the state-integrated Christian school, Bethlehem College, in Tauranga is reprehensible. Our Humanist community allows for many ways of living a ‘good life.’
· July monthly meeting:
Monday meeting 4 July 6.30pm by Zoom only
Discussion on Submissions on Proposed Legislative Changes
There are two submissions of interest which we will discuss during our July meeting. Your input is welcomed.
Improving Arrangements for Surrogacy Bill: due 20 July 2022 This bill simplifies surrogacy arrangements, and ensures the completeness of birth certificates.
Births, Deaths and Marriages Review: Recognising gender on birth certificates and exploring a gender registration process for people born overseas: due 25 July 2022. To recognise gender, a self-identification process for people to amend the sex on their New Zealand birth certificate was enacted in December 2021.The self-identification process will be available from mid-2023, and is especially important to transgender, intersex and takatāpui people. This self-identification process will replace the Family Court process for amending sex on birth certificates.
Do join in the discussion by Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83973258593
Thistle Inn is temporarily closed on Mondays, for the foreseeable future.
· Imprisonment of Mubarak Bala, Nigerian Humanist Society President:
It is nearing 800 days – 2 years and 70 days of the illegal detention of Mubarak Bala the President of the Humanist Society of Nigeria. He is being held as a political prisoner in Kano state by the Islamist extremist Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje OFR. We stand with Humanists around the world as we wait, seemingly forever, for Mubarak’s release and reunion with his family and humanist friends.
· Humanists NZ – Palmerston North/Papaioea:.
Keith writes: “Now that we have found a way to live with Covid, we will resume our Inter-Belief programme and warmly invite you to attend. To be in touch with this group information is on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PalmyHumanists. Keith St-Clair may be emailed at email@example.com
Photo of meeting poster emailed to Mark
From the Humanists International General Assembly held June 2022 in Glasgow, United Kingdom
Declaration of Modern Humanism
This update of the Amsterdam Declaration of 2002 was ratified by the General Assembly. The update was compiled by consultation with the Humanists International membership.
Humanist beliefs and values are as old as civilization and have a history in most societies around the world. Modern humanism is the culmination of these long traditions of reasoning about meaning and ethics, the source of inspiration for many of the world’s great thinkers, artists, and humanitarians, and is interwoven with the rise of modern science.
As a global humanist movement, we seek to make all people aware of these essentials of the humanist worldview:
1. Humanists strive to be ethical
We accept that morality is inherent to the human condition, grounded in the ability of living things to suffer and flourish, motivated by the benefits of helping and not harming, enabled by reason and compassion, and needing no source outside of humanity.
We affirm the worth and dignity of the individual and the right of every human to the greatest possible freedom and fullest possible development compatible with the rights of others. To these ends we support peace, democracy, the rule of law, and universal legal human rights.
We reject all forms of racism and prejudice and the injustices that arise from them. We seek instead to promote the flourishing and fellowship of humanity in all its diversity and individuality.
We hold that personal liberty must be combined with a responsibility to society. A free person has duties to others, and we feel a duty of care to all of humanity, including future generations, and beyond this to all sentient beings.
We recognise that we are part of nature and accept our responsibility for the impact we have on the rest of the natural world.
2. Humanists strive to be rational
We are convinced that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human reason, and action. We advocate the application of science and free inquiry to these problems, remembering that while science provides the means, human values must define the ends. We seek to use science and technology to enhance human well-being, and never callously or destructively.
3. Humanists strive for fulfillment in their lives
We value all sources of individual joy and fulfillment that harm no other, and we believe that personal development through the cultivation of creative and ethical living is a lifelong undertaking.
We therefore treasure artistic creativity and imagination and recognise the transforming power of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts. We cherish the beauty of the natural world and its potential to bring wonder, awe, and tranquillity. We appreciate individual and communal exertion in physical activity, and the scope it offers for comradeship and achievement. We esteem the quest for knowledge, and the humility, wisdom, and insight it bestows.
4. Humanism meets the widespread demand for a source of meaning and purpose to stand as an alternative to dogmatic religion, authoritarian nationalism, tribal sectarianism, and selfish nihilism
Though we believe that a commitment to human well-being is ageless, our particular opinions are not based on revelations fixed for all time. Humanists recognise that no one is infallible or omniscient, and that knowledge of the world and of humankind can be won only through a continuing process of observation, learning, and rethinking.
For these reasons, we seek neither to avoid scrutiny nor to impose our view on all humanity. On the contrary, we are committed to the unfettered expression and exchange of ideas, and seek to cooperate with people of different beliefs who share our values, all in the cause of building a better world.
We are confident that humanity has the potential to solve the problems that confront us, through free inquiry, science, sympathy, and imagination in the furtherance of peace and human flourishing.
We call upon all who share these convictions to join us in this inspiring endeavour.
The practice of Witch-hunting inflicts terrible suffering on innocent victims who are often woman, the young, the elderly and infirm, and those persons who are a little different. In recent months institutions in Scotland have been acknowledging and repenting for their role in Scotland’s problematic witch-hunting past.
In May of this year the Church of Scotland has apologised for its part in the persecution and execution of thousands of people, mainly women, who were accused of being witches hundreds of years ago. Though not directly involved in witch trials, the Church of Scotland has acknowledged that elders within its Kirk Sessions – local, church-run courts – captured and interrogated accused witches before passing them to the criminal courts. The Church acknowledges that they had a role in “feeding the witchcraft fury” of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
Now this month, a bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament is proposing to gain posthumous pardons for thousands of women who faced convictions hundreds of years ago.
Calls for legal pardons for “witches” or “necromancers” have gathered pace in Scotland, where the country’s most senior politician, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, issued a formal apology in March to those vilified under the Witchcraft Act. The Act, which was in effect from 1563 to 1736, made practicing witchcraft punishable by death.
“It was injustice on a colossal scale, driven at least in part by misogyny,” Sturgeon said on International Women’s Day. “They were accused and killed because they were poor, different, vulnerable or in many cases just because they were women.”
The legislation is also about more than addressing the past. The instigators of this posthumous pardon action hope “this action will also signal to other countries around the world where accusations of witchcraft are a very real and current issue that this is not acceptable in the modern day.”
The Society of Humanism in Nepal (SOCH Nepal), where member Uttam Nirula is an immediate past HI Board member, and Advocacy4AllegedWitches, AfAW, in Africa, founded by Leo Igwe, a present Humanists International Board member, are working to educate people that superstitious witch-hunting has no place in civilised society.
On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, June 26, AfAW highlighted the predicament of victims and survivors of torture linked to witchcraft accusations and witch persecutions in Africa.
The ill treatment of imputed witches has been ignored mainly due the misconception that witchcraft accusation fulfills a socially stabilizing need and value in the region. People treat persons accused of harming family, and community members without compassion. Witch hunters, often traditional priests, pastors, and other self-acclaimed occult experts subject alleged witches to inhuman and degrading treatment.
Alleged witches are maltreated and tortured to revenge the harm supposedly inflicted on their victims. The alleged witches are made to feel, suffer and experience the exact pain or worse injury than their supposed victims. Persons accused of witchcraft are subjected to cruel treatment and coerced to confess to the alleged offense. It is pertinent to note that alleged witches often deny the imputed crime. So, accusers torture them until they admit guilt. To elicit confessions, witch finders give alleged witches some health-damaging potion or substance to drink. The potion makes them hallucinate and confess to committing the said offense. In addition, pastors, traditional healers, and other witch hunters torture alleged witches to exorcise or disable the spirit of witchcraft. They perpetrate this torture as a service for the family or community.
Victims of torture linked to witchcraft accusations include men, women, and children. However, women, children and the elderly constitute the majority of victims. The ill-treatment of alleged witches takes place behind family walls, at local churches, faith clinics, deliverance centres, shrines, and public squares. Torture linked to witchcraft beliefs ranges from beating, flogging, pelting with stones, starvation, machete and blade cuts, choking with broomsticks, isolation, banishment, burning with fire, driving a nail into the head of the accused, inserting a stick into the anus, tying a rope around the neck and dragging them along the streets, and other forms of physical and psychological abuse.
Those who torture alleged witches deny them their dignity with impunity. Witch hunters violate the humanity of the accused. They use religion, culture, or tradition to justify and sanctify their vile and criminal acts. AfAW urges African countries to dismantle all structures and systems that enable torture and degrading treatment of alleged witches. Organizations that campaign against torture should recognize and mainstream the inhuman punishment of alleged witches in their programs. African governments should ensure that torturers of accused persons are held accountable and responsible; they should not allow torturers to get away with their crimes. African states should provide support and rehabilitation programs for victims and survivors of torture linked to witchcraft beliefs in the region. Governments should ensure that survivors transition from their traumatic and horrifying experiences to healing.
The government of Scotland’s proposed Bill is heartening for Leo Igwe and AfAW who wrote to First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon with their concern for present day witch-hunting in Africa. Leo Igwe and AfAW received the following letter of support:
24 June 2022
Dear Leo Igwe,
Thank you for your email addressed to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, regarding the apology to the women who were accused and convicted of witchcraft in Scotland. Your email has been passed to the Criminal Justice Division and I have been asked to reply.
Everyone including women and children have the right to be safe within their community. The First Minister is aware that women and children in particular still face persecution and even death in some parts of the world because they have been accused of witchcraft. The persecution of women and children is outdated and should not be tolerated.
As you will be aware, on 8 March the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, issued an apology to the many women who were accused and convicted of the offence of witchcraft under the Witchcraft Act 1563 to acknowledge this historic injustice. These women faced discrimination and had very little protection in law from allegations of criminality including witchcraft. Since then, society has vastly improved and women rights have been acknowledged and been put into law. It is a priority for the Scottish Government to achieve women’s equality and further women’s rights in Scotland.
As you have said in your email the challenges faced in Africa are quite enormous and I hope you and your colleagues at Advocacy for Alleged Witches can take encouragement from the Scottish Government’s decision to issue an apology and go forward with your campaign and highlight the misogynistic attitudes and discrimination that women and children still face to today in many countries throughout the world.
I wish to thank you for writing to the First Minister and hope you are successful in ending the persecution of women and children accused of witchcraft in Africa.
Ronnie Fraser for First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP