Kia ora: 2022 is dawning as another turbulent year. Covid-19 Delta cases were in a decline, then the mutant Omicron
arrived and cases are now on a trajectory upwards. A small but vocal segment of our population has been swayed by misinformation and fallen prey to conspiracy theories. An anti-mandate protest group has settled into camping at Parliament and is now into its third week. With universal horror we are now watching the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Vladamir Putin wants to re-establish the Russian empire that held sway from the 18th Century until the end of World War 1. In the aftermath of World War 11 and during the Cold War, on 9th July 1955, physicist Albert Einstein and philosopher Bertrand Russell issued a Notice to the World, imploring us to “forget our nationality, our creed, and to remember our humanity.” The text of their Manifesto follows:
“We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings whose continued existence is in doubt. We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another.
All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it. We have to learn to think in a new way. Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?
People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war. The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of national sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation more than anything else is that the term “mankind” feels vague and abstract.
People scarcely realise in imagination that the danger is to themselves and their children and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly apprehended humanity. They can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonisingly. And so they hope that perhaps war may be allowed to continue provided modern weapons are prohibited. This hope is illusory.
There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”
… you will need to forget your nationality, your creed, and remember your humanity. Our most pressing problems require it.”
On our humanist front there are still Blasphemy cases being prosecuted. In Pakistan, Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer, is still in prison, sentenced to death. In January 2022, in Pakistan, a young woman, Aneeqa Ateeq, was sentenced to death for a Whatsapp message deemed blasphemous. Mubarak Bala, Nigerian humanist, has now been detained for 670 days with no end in sight. Lynda Tilley, a humanist in South Africa, is posting his words on social media, to ensure Mubarak is not silenced as the Nigerian Islamists hoped. In 2003 Mubarak travelled outside Kano, Nigeria and met different people: “This opened my eyes to human beings of other religions who I was conditioned to think of as filthy, impure and the enemy. I noticed that they were just normal people with similar hopes and aspirations. I befriended many…”
Monday 7 March 2022 by Zoom 7.00 pm
Our first 2022 meeting will be held by Zoom as we are in the middle of the Omicron outbreak.
The Convoy 22-Wellington Anti-Mandate Protest at Parliament
An Analysis with Bryon Clark & Sue Bradford
Conspiracy researcher Byron C Clark and Sue Bradford, activist, academic, and former New Zealand politician, will discuss their thoughts on the Wellington Anti- Mandate Protest currently camped on Parliamentary grounds, and now into its fourth week. Byron has been interviewed by Radio NZ about his thoughts on the underlying currents of this protest. The protest began with the anti-mandate concern but has morphed into a tangle of the far-right, fringe conspiracy theories, Pentecostal evangelism and a traditionalist Catholic sect has even turned up. Sue Bradford introduced the controversial Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill in 2005 which was an amendment to the Crimes Act 1961 which removed the legal defence of “reasonable force” for parents prosecuted for assault on their children. Humanist NZ and NZARH both supported this Amendment. Sue has over many years been an advocate for numerous social justice issues in New Zealand. It has been noted by political commentators that this Convoy 22-Anti-Mandate Protest differs markedly from past protest actions. From her experience of protest action, Sue will share how this current protest differs from past social justice protest action.
Do join us by Zoom, the meeting link is below:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83121123745 Meeting ID: 831 2112 3745 .
Humanism Radio Programme on Arrow 92.7FM
Tim Wright, a Humanist NZ President is hosting a Humanist Radio programme on the first Wednesday of the month at 9pm. The next Radio show is 9pm 2nd March. It is available as a podcast. https://www.arrowfm.co.nz/programmes/show/186/humanism/. Tim will compile a programme of humanist interest with news, views, interviews and music. Your feedback is welcome. Tim maybe contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darwin Day Gathering- Saturday 12 February 2022: Sadly our proposed gathering at Tim Wright’s home in Carterton was cancelled because of the emerging community circulation of the Omicron Covid-19 variant
Humanists NZ – Palmerston North/Papaioea:.The humanist group in Palmerston North has also cancelled their February meeting because of the Omicron community circulation. Their event, Festival of Ideas, will be postponed to a later date. To be in touch with this group information is on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PalmyHumanists and Keith St-Clair may be emailed at email@example.com
Eileen Bone Scholarship for the 2022 Victoria University year: The Humanist Charitable Trust Scholarship was awarded to Victoria Cabello. Victoria has since decided to take a gap year.
Humanistically Speaking is an online Humanist magazine whose first publication was in January 2020. It is the public humanist voice for humanist groups within the South Central England Humanist Network. With their editorial decision making process. Humanistically Speaking wants to bring you stories of human interest that are truthful, honest and sometimes brutal. There are things that happen in the world which some media sources will tidy up, sanitise, and render pleasant for ‘tea-time’ viewing. But if something is blunt and contains a story, Humanistically Speaking want to bring it to their readers’ attention. The following story Witchcraft in Africa in the February 2022 issue is such a blunt and brutal story. In this report there is an image of a pregnant Nigerian woman killed because she was suspected of being a ‘witch’ because she was thought to be too old to still be able to conceive. There is another woman, probably from the Congo, who had light-coloured eyes and was so was considered a ‘witch’. She allegedly ‘flew over’ a church and crash-landed on her way to a meeting. No one saw her flying, of course. They just heard the story and saw the body. The first person on the scene apparently saw her ‘vomit up’ the hand of one of her victims.
Lynda Tilley, Humanistically Speaking’s African correspondent, the author of Witchcraft in Africa, explains that ‘These images were all circulated on social media and WhatsApp groups at some stage and a few ended up in local newspapers. No source is ever given. No one wants to own up to having taken these, I would imagine.’ The images and descriptions are heart-breaking. Women being accused of witchcraft for no other reason than having unusually-coloured eyes or a late-stage pregnancy. Community misfortunes are blamed on ‘witches’ and religious pastor’s cash-in on their claimed ability to identify witches and perform exorcisms. (Note: these images are not reproduced in this letter but are in the body of Lynda’s article in Humanistically Speaking)
Witchcraft in Africa is partly a legacy of Christian colonialism. It is, undoubtedly, one of the most revolting legacies imaginable. In the West witches were stopped being burnt 300 years ago. Along with Humanistically Speaking we pay tribute to humanists in Africa who are trying to promote rationality and science. Leo Igwe, a board member of Humanists International and founder of the Nigerian Humanist Society has set up an organisation Advocacy for Alleged Witches to help the people accused of being witches. They have a website at https://advocacyforallegedwitches.law.blog/
Witchcraft in Africa
Witchcraft. People being burned at the stake. A barbaric practice from medieval times, one of the horrors of another era, banished to the history books. Or so you might think, but sadly you’d be wrong. It’s taking place right here, today, in Africa. Not only is it present in almost every one of our countries, but it’s believed to be increasing and spreading.
Along with this we have another rapidly growing superstitious belief known as “Money Rituals” where the murder of a person and presentation of their body parts is said to bring a person money or cause their business to prosper.
Both superstitions stem from desperation and greed. As countries fall into economic decline and unemployment rises due to Covid-19, increasingly desperate people are paying, with what little cash they have, for a money ritual in the hope of getting out of poverty. At the cost of an innocent person’s life the only “winner” in this evil game is the con man (or woman) taking their money.
Witchcraft allegations are yet another scam – by a self appointed “witchdoctor” who mysteriously is able to tell who’s a witch and who has become ill or had “bad luck” due to a supposed spell cast by said witch, or a wizard, as men are not immune to this accusation either. Even innocent children are not safe.
Both ‘witchdoctors’ and pastors of revivalist type churches, which are springing up everywhere in Africa, are making money off this practice. ‘Cleansing of witches’ or exorcism ceremonies are charged for by the church. The pastor is mysteriously ‘gifted’ with the sense to know who is a witch and what is the cure.
Anyone can be accused of ‘witchcraft’ but older, poorer women in rural areas seem to be targeted in particular. The root cause of it is almost always jealousy or greed. Elderly widows can be targeted by younger family members who want their land or possessions. Orphaned children left in the care of family members who already have too many mouths
to feed, or twins or disabled children seen to a burden on the family may also be targeted.
Every accident or act of nature can, conveniently, be blamed on ‘witchcraft’.
Someone in the home or village dying from disease can be seen as the result of a witch’s curse or spell. Failed crops or businesses, a neighbour’s rooftop caving in, unusual weather, livestock dying, a person who cannot fall pregnant, has grey hair or suffers from epilepsy – everything can be blamed on witches, it would seem.
Innocent children are not immune either. Those born as twins or with disabilities, or who frequently wet their bed, are left handed, badly behaved or very energetic. Many are cast out of communities and end up living on the streets. Others suffer awful physical abuse – beatings and burnings as part of the ‘exorcism rituals’ from which they never recover.
Albinos are at great risk and many, in parts of East Africa for example, never live past the age of around 40. They are hunted for their body parts, used in rituals and said to bring luck or money.
Most of our countries have ‘Witchcraft Acts’ which not only reject the existence of witches but also make it punishable (with a fine or imprisonment) for any person to aid or abet a “witch” by e.g. soliciting their services or being taught how to perform Witchcraft by them. Despite this, belief in witchcraft is growing. It fills people with fear, and they take the law into their own hands in vigilante type justice. It doesn’t help that the Bible recognises a ‘spiritual world’ or that several members of the police and government fear and believe in these mythical witches too, as do successful, educated members of society
and people viewed as leaders in their communities.
Worryingly, Malawi is currently reviewing their Witchcraft Act, trying to get witchcraft recognised legally. How can you recognise a superstitious man-made belief, and accuse a person of something in a court of law which exists only in the imagination? Will the killing of an innocent person because, say, they have epilepsy, no longer be considered a crime?
Will murderers walk free, only to kill again? Will a woman be sentenced to death because of the colour of her hair? Where do human rights fit in to the picture? What qualifies a person to be a ‘witch doctor’ or a pastor to have the ability to ‘treat’ and know who’s a ‘witch’? What kind of people justify writing myths and superstitions into law? If this is accepted into law, how and when will this madness ever end?
How you can help
Lynda informs us that Malawi is currently reviewing their Witchcraft Act and trying to get witchcraft recognised legally. You can read about the proposed new Malawian law at https://www.mwnation.com/law-commission-stance-on-witchcraft-stirs-debate/ and you can email the Malawi Law Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org with your objections.
As well as the Advocacy for Alleged Witches website above, there is a campaign “2020-2030: Decade of Activism Against Witch Persecution In Africa” with a website: https://advocacyforallegedwitches.law.blog/2020/01/13/africa-igwe/ You can also find them on Facebook or email them at :email@example.com.
2022 General Assembly- Hosted by Humanist Society Scotland
The 2022 Humanists International General Assembly will take place in Glasgow from Friday 3d June until Sunday 5th of June. The event will be organised in collaboration with Humanist Society Scotland. This is an “in person” conference with no online participation. However, it is hoped to video record the sessions.
In the wake of the seismic changes brought about across the world by the pandemic, the worrying rise in anti-science rhetoric, the rise of fake news and tweeting politicians, and the climate emergency that remains largely unaddressed, we ask:
“Is it time for a new enlightenment, and what role should humanism play?”
The Scottish Enlightenment brought progress in many areas of life including philosophy, literature, economics, science, medicine, architecture, art, and music, and enriched and improved the lives of many. We want to explore how a new humanist Enlightenment could address the growing inequalities we face, the irreversible harm we are causing to the planet in the name of progress, disrupt the patterns of power that foster inequality, and challenge the growing body of anti-science and anti-truth rhetoric that threatens democracy.