The Humanist Society of New Zealand is a Member Organisation of the International Humanist and Ethical Union
Humanist NZ Newsletter October 2022
Kia ora: At times of heightened emotions, I have noticed that inside my heart a small kernel emerges. It is a kernel of hope and the desire – “to do better”. With the death of Queen Elizabeth and the emotions that arise individually and collectively, is it possible to do better? Can the consequences of colonisation be remitted? What does it mean for New Zealand-Aotearoa, where our Head of State is the British Monarch? And on a completely different tangent – 19 -25 September is Basic Income Week, with the theme for the week being “Basic Income is Basic Humanism.” Humanism wishes that all people do well. The hope of Basic Income echoes this as well.
October monthly meeting:
Monday 10 October, 6:30pm by Meeting and Zoom
2022 Humanist NZ AGM
And celebrating the publication of Maori Boy Atheist with author Eru Hiko-Tahuri
On 20 August 2022, Eru Hiko-Tahuri launched his book Maori Boy Atheist at Rationalist House, Auckland. It has been translated into Maori and French, with distribution throughout the Pacific Islands. At the launch, NZARH President Hema Paterson introduced Eru, giving a background to the publication of Eru’s book. Eru will talk to us about his book, and there will be copies of Maori Boy Atheist available to purchase at this meeting. The launch of Maori Boy Atheist at Rationalist House may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI_w5Tjj5Xg
If you are interested in joining the Humanist NZ committee and supporting the work of humanism in New Zealand please contact our President Tim Wright at email@example.com Now that we are familiar with Zoom, a useful consequence of the Covid Lockdown experience is that committee members can join us from other places in New Zealand.
If you can’t make it in person, feel free to join us via the Zoom link
All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public-bring a friend
Wellington Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon-upstairs
· Humanists NZ – Palmerston North/Papaioea meets at 365 Albert St, Hokowhitu (Library) Palmerston North. To be in touch with this group, information is on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PalmyHumanists. Or email co-ordinator Keith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Imprisonment of Mubarak Bala, President Nigerian Humanist Society:
We are now nearing 900 days of the illegal detention of Mubarak Bala. Friends of Mubarak continue their Facebook Vigil for Mubarak, marking each passing day with a statement. Leo Igwe says succinctly: “To hold a critical idea is not a crime but an intellectual duty to humanity.”
On 22 August, lawyers representing Mubarak Bala, together with Mubarak’s wife and son, as well as representatives of the humanist movement, including Dr Leo Igwe, met with Frank Schwabe (SPD), Federal Government Commissioner for Freedom of Religion and Belief, during his five-day trip to Nigeria.
Ahead of the meeting, Director of the Board of the German Humanist Association, Michael Bauer, stated:
“We are very grateful that Frank Schwabe specifically took up our request for his special attention to Mubarak Bala. In our view, Mubarak’s imprisonment and sentencing are a massive violation of freedom of belief and expression; from a humanistic point of view, his prison sentence is cynical and intolerable. We hope that the talks of the German Federal Commissioner will improve Mubarak’s situation and prospects, and that maybe even his release can be obtained. Mubarak’s situation is exemplary of the suffering of people in a number of countries around the world, where freedom of religion or belief is trampled underfoot and unpopular human rights defenders are subjected to harsh penalties. This behaviour is in stark contrast to the principles of universal human rights.”
Tragic Killing of Mahsa Amani in Iran
George Floyd got killed and the world was rightly outraged! A woman in Iran was killed for not covering her hair and there is silence. There must be a voice for the women of Iran who live in a system of gender apartheid.
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd, has died after a ‘violent arrest’ for infringing hijab rules amid an Iranian crackdown on women’s dress
Mahsa died in an Iranian hospital days after being detained by the Iranian regime’s morality police for allegedly not complying with the country’s hijab regulations.
Mahsa Amini was travelling with her family from Iran’s western province of Kurdistan to the capital, Tehran, to visit relatives when she was reportedly arrested for failing to meet the country’s strict rules on women’s dress.
Witnesses reported that Mahsa was beaten in the police van, an allegation the police have denied.
The news comes weeks after Iran’s hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, ordered a crackdown on women’s rights and called for stricter enforcement of the country’s mandatory dress code, which has required all women to wear the hijab head-covering since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Ebrahim Raisi signed the decree on 15 August clamping down on women’s dress and stipulating harsher punishments for violating the strict code, both in public and online.
Countless Muslim women are exposed to this cruel religious modesty compulsion and their lives are often in danger if they refuse. In Iran anyone who travels without a headscarf risks arrest, beatings with a cane or imprisonment and a fine. But even a woman who wears a headscarf still runs the risk of violating the veil law if, for example, a few strands of hair are visible or if the vice squad thinks her clothes are too brightly coloured or too tight-fitting. There have been countless reports of police officers slapping women in the face, batoning them and forcing them into police cars for not approving the way they dress.
Coalition urges the EU to guarantee an enabling visa framework for human rights defenders
Humanist NZ committee members have discussed a similar idea in the past, could we prevail on the NZ government to establish a special Visa category for human rights defender’s and humanists at risk?
In a joint statement published today at the initiative of ProtectDefenders.eu, 50 international civil society organisations call on all European Union institutions and the EU Member States to return on its political mandate in favour of human rights and human rights defenders, and lead on the implementation of concrete initiatives, good practices, and policy changes to ensure that at-risk human rights defenders can access European Union visas with guarantees, security, and predictability.
In this joint statement, the signatory organisations reiterate that human rights defenders (HRDs) have the right to carry out their legitimate work safely and to access support and protection when they are at risk, especially those who operate in the most difficult contexts. Nonetheless, human rights defenders worldwide often carry out their work at great personal risk, and increasingly face killings, attacks, threats, and acts of intimidation because of their peaceful activities, in addition to being subjected to repression, restrictive legislation, and judicial harassment.
According to the international human rights defender’s community, the possibility of accessing a visa to a European territory emerges as an essential security and protection tool for these at-risk human rights defenders to carry out their activities in their countries in a more secure and protected way, and visas and multiple-entry visas are widely regarded as a vital element of a comprehensive security strategy.
However, as the signatory organisations deplore, the EU and its member states’ stated support for human rights defenders is not consistent with the current EU visa policies and practices, as human rights defenders at risk around the world lack consistent procedures to effectively and predictably access visas for the EU territory. In fact, the community in support of human rights defenders have systematically noted and documented the numerous and diverse obstacles for defenders to access EU visas, preventing them from accessing safe-haven when necessary, as well as from engaging in opportunities for rest and respite, temporary relocation programmes, or international advocacy, mobilisation, or networking activities in the EU territory. This lack of reliable, predictable, and coherent access for human rights defenders to EU visas is reportedly aggravating the risk, isolation, and vulnerability they face as a result of their work – which is exacerbated for those defenders belonging to particularly threatened groups, such as women human rights defenders, LGBTI rights defenders, or indigenous rights defenders.
In this communication, the group of organisations – which includes a wide range of international and regional actors working in favour of human rights throughout the world, ultimately calls for the creation and implementation of a special, accelerated visa process for HRDs in the EU, guaranteeing predictability, consistency, and protection for those who are most at-risk HRDs.
This special visa should be a multiple-entry, long-term visa that enables HRDs to better manage their protection needs – including sometimes not using the visa but keeping it in reserve, in a way that constitutes a security resource that enables the HRD to continue in their work. The visa process should make the application procedures easier, user-friendly, and available in the local languages. Besides, the financial requirements should be alleviated, the visa application processing fees should be waived for at-risk HRDs, and the visa processing time should be shorter, especially for HRDs at risk, and allow for urgent procedures.
Under this proposed accelerated process, the embassies of EU countries should be the main stakeholder to receive and process visa –
applications, and a special contact for HRD visa processes should be created so as not to rely on a third-party agency for HRD visas. Visa contacts dealing with visas for HRDs should be gender-sensitive, aware of confidentiality needs, and know about HRDs’ needs and risks, and local and international NGOs identified as partners should be able to refer cases to the embassies and confirm their status as a defender, helping to speed up the visa processing. In the Member States, national human rights institutions and civil society should be consulted and involved in implementing the new visa application process for Human Rights Defenders.
In addition, the signatories of the statement published today are calling on the EU stakeholders to propose a specific facilitated procedure for human rights defenders within the EU Visa Code, as well as to include instructions in the EU Visa Handbook on granting facilitations to HRDs and their family members, work towards amending the legal instruments on visas, particularly the Visa Code, and introduce amendments to the Temporary Protection Directive that allow temporary protection status in the EU to be granted to defenders at risk.
Africa and Advocacy for Alleged Witches
Leo Ige’s organisation Advocacy for Alleged Witches had arranged a public seminar “Superstition and Witch Persecution” on Saturday 17 September at 9 am. The seminar was to be livestreamed as well. At the very last minute the seminar was disrupted by a misunderstanding that the seminar was to promote witchcraft.
Leo asks Humanists around the world to draw attention of government agencies that focus on Africa to the issue of witch-persecution. Encourage the agencies to highlight the issue and help amply the voices of campaigners, financially support Advocacy for Alleged Witches, and denounce the exoticization of African witchcraft by Africanists in the US.
Disruption of a Nigerian Public Seminar to educate about the shocking Witch-Hunting practices rife in Africa.
Report by Leo Igwe in News Ghana 20 September 2022
On Saturday, September 17, 2022, officers from the state police command took over the premises of the Greenbelt Hotel, the venue of a seminar on witch-persecution in Benue. The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW), a non-governmental organization that works and campaigns to end witch-persecution in Africa, organized the event. Witchcraft accusations and related attacks are pervasive in Benue. Recently, the mob attacked and almost killed a woman in the state, following an accusation of causing sickness and the eventual death of a young man through witchcraft. Some relatives rescued her and took her to a safe location. The police did not intervene. In parts of Benue state, a witch-finding group, Okinibi, attacks, strangles and stones to death suspected witches. AfAW organized the event to sensitize the Benue public, and draw attention to these human rights abuses.
Police officers were at the hotel premises as early as 8 am, before the organizers arrived. They said that the Commissioner of Police (CP) instructed them to stop the event. They ordered all participants to leave the premises. Efforts by the organizers to get the CP to allow the event go ahead were unsuccessful. One police officer from the state investigation bureau told the organizers that they got some intelligence that the seminar was a meeting of witches, and were instructed to stop it. A meeting of witches? An officer said that the police considered the meeting a security breach. The police officers could not disclose the source of their intelligence; they seized the conference banners and took away other event documents. The decision by the police to disrupt and stop a seminar on witch-persecution under the pretext that it was a meeting of witches was unwarranted. It was a demonstration of fear and ignorance of the law and constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
First, the CP and the police public relations officer were all duly informed about the event; they were in touch with the organizers before the program. The police could have called to seek clarifications if they had any concerns. But they did not. Again, there is nothing hidden about AfAW’s campaigns and activities. Information about the programs of AfAW, rescuing and rehabilitating victims of witch-persecution, is out there online and offline, in print and electronic media, and can easily be accessed. Soft copies of the event banners, which they seized, are online, and contain telephone contacts that police authorities could reach for more information. Fear, prejudice, and wilful ignorance motivated the actions of the police and their lack of diligence should be excused.
The police misdirected resources and intelligence, and ended up stopping an event that should have been held. The police equated a meeting to address human rights abuses in the name of witchcraft to a meeting of witches. Is that not absurd? Who should the police institution blame for their lack of proper understanding and their inability to distinguish a meeting of witches from a meeting to address abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs? One female police officer said that she swore not to step her foot at the venue where ‘witches’ were meeting. A senior police officer noted that he did not see the ‘alleged’ in the in the name of the organization until the day of the programme. He claimed that once he saw the name ‘witches’ on the poster, he concluded that the event would not hold.
It is pertinent to remind the police that Nigerian law does not recognize witchcraft, and under the law, witchcraft accusations are criminal acts; identifying somebody as a witch is an offense. So, by calling the AfAW event a meeting of witches and wizards, the police violated the law. They transgressed because they branded the organizers and participants at the event witches. By criminalizing witchcraft accusations, the law tries to forestall miscarriage of justice and other horrific abuses that result from allegations of witchcraft in societies like Nigeria, where witchcraft fears and anxieties are pervasive.
Now, let us address another pertinent issue. What if witches planned to meet in Benue, what if the AfAW event was indeed a meeting of witches and wizards as some imagined? Is it within the powers of the police to disrupt or stop such a gathering? The answer is: No. The police do not have such powers. And here are the reasons. The police are a constituted authority and should act in line with their mandate as prescribed by the law. The Nigerian constitution has outlined the functions of the police. So, police interventions should be guided by the provisions in the constitution, not by the religious or belief whims and caprices of police officers and politicians. The constitution recognizes the right of every Nigerian to meet, associate, and assemble. The police must act to protect, not deny these rights, including the rights and liberties of Nigerians who describe themselves as witches, Satanists, and occultists to meet and assemble. Yes, the police should act to protect the rights of witches.
Some people would argue that this is a contradiction, especially in a situation where identification of and as a witch is a crime under the law? No, it is not. Nigerian law is an evidence-based law. The law does not recognize witchcraft or witches because there is no evidence for witchcraft or witches. Witchcraft is not a justiciable crime; witches do not exist. Witches are not persons; they cannot be citizens, and cannot obey or break the law. The meeting of witches, which the police in Benue came to stop or disrupt last week, is not recognized in the constitution. There is no evidence that such meetings hold or are held anywhere. So, the police, by stopping – pretending to be stopping, or disrupting any real or imagined meeting of witches, act ultra vires, that means, beyond their powers. As shown by what happened at Green Belt Hotel on Saturday, witchcraft fears and anxieties are pervasive in the Nigerian police force, and these occult fears are hampering the ability of the police to effectively combat crimes and atrocities linked to witchcraft beliefs. Witchcraft fears cause the police to misinterpret the law and misapply the limited police resources. Witchcraft is superstition, and witches are imaginary entities. The police should learn to act in deference to the letters and spirit of the law and constitution of Nigeria, not based on fantasies and fears of witches and wizards.
New Zealand Space Policy Review Consultation Submissions due: 31 October 2022
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is seeking feedback on New Zealander’s interests in space and the values and objectives that underpin New Zealand’s space policies.
As Humanists do we have a position on Space? We are interested in your thoughts. The Review document can be read at https://www.mbie.govt.nz/science-and-technology/space/new-zealand-space-policy-review-consultation/
Stuart Nash the Minister for Economic and Regional Development has some introductory thougts:
This is an opportunity for you to have your say on the government’s approach to space activities, engagements with international partners and the use of space technologies and data.
New Zealand’s association with space goes back centuries: the first Māori explorers navigated by the stars to Aotearoa New Zealand, and centuries later they were followed by European navigators whose instruments also looked to the stars. Today, our modern navigation systems are still guided from space.
New Zealand is home to space success stories, such as Bill Pickering, who went through Wellington College and Canterbury University before becoming director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Peter Beck, the founder of Rocket Lab, launching satellites from the world’s first fully private launch facility on Mahia Peninsula.
Our journey to becoming a space faring country has rapidly accelerated, following Rocket Lab’s decision to launch rockets from New Zealand. This has been the catalyst for establishing the New Zealand Space Agency, within the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, and creating a regulatory system through the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017.
Global space industry revenues are now more than NZ$600 billion per annum. New Zealand is part of this growth. In 2018/19, our space sector contributed $1.69 billion to our national economy and supported 12,000 jobs.
Space is also becoming more crowded and complex, and making sure it is used sustainably is a global challenge. As a small nation, we have an interest in having a strong international rules-based system that ensures space is used responsibly and peacefully. The data we get from space can help us address a range of critical challenges – for New Zealand and the world – and provides an opportunity to model sustainable practices in new ways.
As the Minister responsible for all payloads launched from New Zealand, I am acutely aware that we must ensure our system, and the principles and policies that we adhere to, remain consistent with the expectations of New Zealanders.
Your feedback on this consultation will help us develop a National Space Policy that reflects the values and interests of New Zealand in space, and will guide our future policies, regulations, and international engagements. Thank you
With the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the ascension of King Charles III, defender of faith, we wonder what the monarchy’s long relationship with religion may look like under the new sovereign
From The Conversation 21/09/2022 Bob Morris Honorary Senior Research Associate, Constitution Unit, UCL
When Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1953, she took on the role of “defender of the faith” (Fidei Defensor in the original Latin) – a title first granted to Henry VIII by the Pope in 1521. He subsequently broke with Rome and became the first head of the Church of England.
In the past 70 years, the role of religion in British public life has evolved significantly. As King Charles III assumes the role of monarch, his relationship with faith will also come into focus, and may look different from his mother’s.
At a memorial service for the Queen in Belfast cathedral, the new king took care on his arrival to meet representatives of all religious groups in the province. It is expected that there will be a full, similar presence of religious representatives at his forthcoming coronation. Although the Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican clergy will remain the principal celebrants, other Christian denominations and non-Christian religions are expected to have a place in the ceremony.
Since 1945, two concurrent social processes have changed Britain’s relationship with religion. Increased secularisation, meaning that just over 50% of the population now have no religious affiliation.And increased pluralisation, meaning the number of non-Christian religions has grown – their followers amount to about 9% of the population.
The monarchy has responded to these changes in two ways. First, as Prince of Wales in the 1990s, the now-King mused aloud whether the monarchical title defender of the faith should not be reinterpreted as “defender of faith”. This is understood to have been his reaction to the growing presence of non-Christian religions in the UK, as well as signalling a more relaxed and inclusive attitude towards non-Anglican Christians.
Second, at a Lambeth Palace ecumenical meeting hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in February 2012, the Queen, speaking as supreme governor of the Church of England in her diamond jubilee year, said:
“The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”
In practice, this was thought to confer a role on the Church of England distinct from its previous concern to defend its exclusivity. At the same time, it was welcome to many of the members of non-Christian religions whose presence had grown in the post-war period, and also accepted by the Anglican hierarchy, which seems to have encouraged the Queen to take the initiative.
And at a recent meeting with faith leaders, the King remarked that, as monarch, he intends to protect the diversity of religion in Britain, and to “respect those who follow other spiritual paths, as well as those who seek to live their lives in accordance with secular ideals”.
The monarchy and religion
The King’s constitutional links with the Christian churches derive from the 16th century Protestant reformations, which took different forms in England and Scotland (then separate countries). Towards the end of the 17th century, when threatened by Catholic states, legislation banned Roman Catholics, or (until 2013) anyone married to one, from succeeding to the throne.
Roman Catholics and all Protestant groups not belonging to the Anglican Church of England or the Church of Scotland were deprived of most of their civic freedoms. These were finally restored, after some earlier relaxations, in the late 1820s – and last of all for the Roman Catholics in 1829.
The present position is that a British king cannot be a Roman Catholic, must be “in communion with” the Church of England, and swear that he is a faithful Protestant. Following the 1707 Act of Union between Scotland and England, he must, after accession, swear to “inviolably maintain and preserve” the Presbyterian form of church government established in the more autonomous Church of Scotland. This was one of Charles III’s first acts as king.
The King’s coronation consists of a service of Holy Communion, and a rite during which he is anointed and crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, primate of the Church of England. In coronation oaths prescribed by parliament in 1689, the King will swear, among other things, to “maintain and preserve inviolately” the establishment of the Church of England and the rights and privileges of its clergy.
The monarch has been supreme head of the Church of England since 1558. The monarch appoints all the senior clergy in England on the advice of the UK prime minister, after a selection process run by the Church of England.
In Scotland, the greater autonomy of the Church of Scotland means the King has no similar relationship. However, he will appoint a Lord High Commissioner every year to attend and observe the proceedings of the Church’s annual General Assembly, and will occasionally attend himself in the same capacity. At the coronation in 1953, that year’s moderator (clerical chairman) of the Church of Scotland was the sole non-Anglican present among the officiating clergy.
King Charles and the faith
The new King’s coronation is still some months’ away, but the changing face of religion in the United Kingdom, combined with his and his mother’s past comments, suggest that the title Fidei Defensor will be interpreted in more inclusive and positive ways.
He has said as much himself in his recent comments to faith leaders after ascending the throne:
“The beliefs that flourish in, and contribute to, our richly diverse society differ. They, and our society, can only thrive through a clear collective commitment to those vital principles of freedom of conscience, generosity of spirit and care for others which are, to me, the essence of our nationhood. I am determined, as King, to preserve and promote those principles across all communities, and for all beliefs, with all my heart.”