Kia ora: Another year of Humanism begins. In 2021 we will continue to work towards developing a training programme for non-religious pastoral support. Thank you to the people who have indicated their interest in the training. A growing area in Humanist advocacy is supporting and making known the situation of Humanists at Risk. During late December and January Humanist NZ wrote letters to the Minister of Foreign Affairs regarding Humanists in difficult and life-threatening situations. We wrote in support of Dr Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian freethinker, academic and researcher in Disaster Medicine who was facing an imminent death sentence in Iran on false charges of espionage. A news report states that Dr Djalali received a reprieve from execution and was able to escape to the UK. We also wrote in support of Zara Kay, an Australian citizen detained in Tanzania. Zara is an ex-Muslim atheist, secular activist, and women’s rights activist, based in London. Zara is the founder of Faithless Hijabi, an international non-profit organisation that seeks to support the rights of Muslim-raised women, especially those who are in the process of leaving or have left Islam. The group is a member of the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims. Sadly, Zara’s situation is not resolved. She has been on bail since she was arrested on December 28, held for 32 hours and had her passport confiscated. She is yet to be charged with a crime.  Mubarak Bala also continues to be detained, even though there is a Court Order that he be released on bail. Below in this newsletter is more information about Mubarak’s perilous situation.

Monthly Meeting

Monday 1 March 6.30 pm until 9.00pm

The Religious Diversity Centre – Interfaith and belief in New Zealand

Co-chairperson of the Religious Diversity Centre – Jocelyn Armstrong

Jocelyn Armstrong is co-chairperson with Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel of the Trust Board of the national Religious Diversity Centre, established in 2016 to provide multi-religious research, education and dialogue. Last year Jocelyn received the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Hubert Walter award for ‘her pioneering contribution to interfaith dialogue and education in Aotearoa New Zealand’. Jocelyn was involved in earlier years in the leadership of the inter-church ecumenical movement both national and international. On retirement from teaching Religious Studies in a church secondary school in 2007 Jocelyn was asked to produce a textbook introducing the world religions as a student resource for certain Social Studies Achievement Objectives.

The Religious Diversity Centre was formed to promote understanding, appreciation and respect for religious diversity among the religious, spiritual and secular communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. New Zealand has seen a significant and rapid growth in population diversity. In response, a vigorous Interfaith movement evolved, and now has many members all over NZ. Interfaith groups have initiated a range of activities and diversity education which promotes many benefits for all of New Zealand society. After 11 years of national and regional interfaith gatherings around the country, and together with the on-going dedicated involvement of respected researchers, educators, faith leaders, and community builders, the Religious Diversity Centre was launched in 2016; it is a national centre, a credibly resource and go-to place for research, information, education and training. The purpose of the Centre is to encourage inter and intra religious dialogue, promote cooperation, friendship, peace-making, provide high quality research and publications, contribute expert advice for policymakers, media organisations, honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

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

Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Wellington

· Eileen Bone Scholarship 2021: The 2021 recipient of the Eileen Bone Scholarship is Paese Melody Vitale. Paese first came to New Zealand from Samoa in December 2018 and has attended Naenae College in 2019 & 2020. Paese was a 2020 School Prefect, the eldest of 4 children and intends to study Music (singing) at Victoria University this year. We thank the The NZ Humanist Charitable Trust for funding this scholarship in memory of Eileen Bone 1918-2000 who taught English at Naenae College for many years and was a valued and loved member of Humanist NZ

· Free Mubarak Bala  #300DaysWithoutMubarak

Humanists around the world are gravely concerned for Mubarak Bala the President of the Humanist Society of Nigeria. He has been detained in Nigeria since 28 April 2020. Humanist International has been working to obtain his release and the 22 February was nominated as a world-wide day of action as this day marks 300 days of detention and uncertainty as to any progress with his case. Below is a timeline of these bleak 300 days for Mubarak, his wife and his almost year-old son. There are two videos outlining the situation and can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/humanistsinternational and also our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HumanistNZ

Humanists around the world have been observing 300seconds of silence to mark #300DaysWithoutMubarak

https://freemubarakbala.org/timeline

28 April 2020    Day 0-Mubarak arrested and detained

29 April         Day 1-Mubarak is not informed of grounds for detention & transferred to Kano State (fiercely Islamic)

30 April        Day 2- State Police confirm Mubarak was transferred to Kano

2 May           Day 4-Held incommunicado in an unknown https://www.facebook.com/HumanistNZhttps://www.facebook.com/HumanistNZlocation; lawyers are refused request to meet Mubarak

6 May           Day 8-formally detained under suspicion of violating the Cybercrimes Act

8 May           Day 10-Lawyers file fundamental rights case seeking release

24 June         Day 57- magistrate grants legal team the right to meet with Mubarak

15 July          Day 78-after significant delays court order for legal team to meet Mubarak

16 July          Day 79-Police Commissioner fails to comply on a technicality, Courts go into recess until October

6 August       Day 100-Nigerian poet and humanist Wole Soyinka writes a letter of solidarity

2 October      Day 157-false rumours circulate that Mubarak has been killed

Early October a member of the legal team meets Mubarak and hears that Mubarak is receiving death threats from inmates

15 October    Day 170-Fundamental Rights Petition again postponed. Humanist community took action

19 October    Day 174-hearing takes place, judge adjourns until 10 December for judgement

14 November Day 200-200 Days with no charge. Humanists call for his release

20 November     Day 206-legal team fears a secret trial in Kano

21 December     Day 237-Federal High Court rules detention is illegal and orders release on bail

8 January 2021  Day 255-Humanist Society of Scotland awards Mubarak with Gordon Ross Humanist of the Year Award

27 January    Day 274-legal team file second Fundamental Rights Petition and seek his relocation to Abuja for fairer trial

2 February    Day 280-Humanist International issues statement on Mubarak’s relocation to neutral territory

22 February Day 300-Mubarak Bala’s 300th day in arbitrary detention

Humanist NZ Membership 2021:

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Every year we invite people to become members of our association. Members give weight to our campaigns for a fairer New Zealand and help fund activities.

Join now, for as little as $20, to ensure non-religious New Zealanders have a voice in public policy.

In the past 12 months, with the support and input from our members, we have …

Called for the removal of religious instruction in schools. The Education and Training Bill includes clauses to continue the status quo of religious evangelical groups being allowed to take over classrooms during the school day. We responded to the consultation and presented an oral submission to the Education Select Committee. This Bill now requires parents to opt-in their children to religious education classes. Previously it was an opt-out option.

Supported the End of Life Choice Bill, appearing before the Health Select Committee in support. The bill passed the Second reading in June with 70 votes in favour and 50 opposed. The referendum result in September showed that 65.2% were in favour of this Act with 38.8% happy with the status quo.

Campaigned for more protection of women and girls from Female Genital Mutilation. We made a submission in support of the Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill, and asked for greater reporting requirements after meeting with a number of agencies in the health sector.

Achieved Abortion Law reform. We presented detailed oral evidence to the Abortion Legislation Committee in support of the Abortion Legislation Bill. A core part of our campaigning for decades, abortion was finally legalised in New Zealand in March 2020.

Seen the results of our Census Campaign with the number of non-religious people overtaking all other belief groups in New Zealand combined.

Made an oral submission on the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill. Our oral submission was supported by Gulalai Ismail, a Pashtun human rights activist who fled Pakistan after a First Information Report was raised by the Pakistani police, accusing her of an “anti-state and hate speech”.

Challenged New Zealand’s national “Diversity” statement for excluding non-religious people. However, members of the reference group behind the National Statement were reported to have thought that “they had already made enough concessions to the non-religious.”

Called for hospital chaplaincy services to reflect patients’ changing needs and include non-religious pastoral care. The Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplaincy (ICHC) holds the only contract to provide chaplaincy services with the MoH and has done so for over 25 years.

Campaigned for the protection of Humanists overseas who are suffering from persecution. In June 2020 we called on the New Zealand government to intercede on behalf of the President of the Humanist Society of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, who has been detained and accused of Blasphemy. He has been detained now for 300 days even though the High Court of Nigeria has ordered his release.

Work with Humanist International, previously International Humanist & Ethical Union, on their campaigns to advance humanism  

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