When was the last time there was a meeting of Secular Humanists in Canada, or indeed all of North America which could proudly affirm 10,000 attendees? Or even 5,000? The Reason Rally website (as of October 5, 2022) appears to still have branding from 2016 and proclaims “The Reason Rally is proud to have hosted the two largest gatherings to celebrate secular identity and speak up for reason in American history.” Despite a bit of mis-place modifier action going-on in that proclamation, we can take it that things were still happening in 2016.
In Canada, the most recent iteration of the Imagine No Religion conference (INR7) was held in Toronto during the summer of 2017. We remember it fondly as HumanistFreedoms.com stands as a product of friendships developed and sustained at that time.
Time has indeed passed and one must only wonder if it isn’t perhaps time for Secular Humanists in North America to look around and take stock. Where is everybody? Where is that solidarity to promote reason and secular values?
Maybe it’s also time to take note of undertakings on other continents.
The first edition of Litmus, the annual meet of esSENSE Global, was held in Thiruvananthapuram, India, in Oct 2018. The next one was held in Kozhikode in 2019. Litmus is noted for all round participation from the secular-atheist community and the general public in the state of Kerala. Expatriate Malayalees also participate in this annual event in large numbers.
According to TheNewsMinute.com, “Around 10,000 people gathered at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium at Kadavanthara in Kerala’s Ernakulam district on October 2, Sunday, to attend an annual meet named ‘Litmus 22’, pitched as “the world’s biggest atheist meet in ‘god’s own country’”.
‘Let evidence lead’ is the motto of Litmus and stated on the event website that:
No pompous fanfare by parading of caparisoned elephants through packed streets. No vengeful god with their inherent fury or priests with their greedy interests. No eardrum shattering high decibel fireworks or loudspeakers.
Instead, this session entails a celebration that promotes the advancement of humanity through enhancing scientific temper and freethinking as per article 51 a(h) of the constitution of India.
esSENSE GLOBAL is a registered organization under the Registrar of Societies, Government of Kerala, India with ‘ESSENSE CLUB GLOBAL’ as the registered name. Via internet, social and printed media the organization is known as esSENSE GLOBAL.
The goal of esSENSE GLOBAL is to promote the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform in the society inspired by the Article 51 A (h) of Constitution of India which insists “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”. esSENSE GLOBAL strives to liberate the society of Kerala from religious and secular superstitions, dogmas and intellectual bondage. Unbiased freethinking is the stand we espouse without flinch. esSENSE Global always holds the view that Kerala society requires a real handshake with science and its methodology so as to advance to the next level of human civilization. When we defend science, in fact, we defend our civilization.
esSENSE GLOBAL organizes Seminars, Study classes, Panel discussions, Presentations, Debates, Aid missions throughout the state of Kerala to spread the ideas and values mentioned above. All programs are recorded and published in YouTube and social media.
In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. This week, we found news that Chile has a brand new, legal Humanist political party. While we aren’t experts in Chilean politics, we are aware that this development follows a difficult period in Chilean history – most recently demonstrated by constitutional challenges. Indeed, in a world that seems to face no shortage of political challenges, it is interesting to note that Humanist political parties exist in many countries around the world. Currently, there is no Humanist political party in Canada that we are aware of. Perhaps Chileans have recognized what we’ve not yet seen in Canada: there’s a deep and urgent need for reason in politics.
The following article was located on the Pressenza website on October 2, 2022.
Today the more than necessary signatures to legaliseAcción Humanistaas a political party in Chile were presented to the Electoral Service.
After two and a half years since some 300 militants left the Humanist Party and left that collectivity as a mere movement that did not seek to sustain the original organisation, this new movement is being legalised today.
They worked during the pandemic, they gave themselves their statutes, added adherents, launched their membership campaign and were raising a contagious energy with which they took to the streets while also sustaining their virtual activities. They developed that very special mix that was militancy in times of pandemic.
In this context and after the Chilean social awakening, they supported the “Apruebo” option in the Plebiscite, they sought to elect constituents by running candidates in several districts, and they still presented themselves as a movement in the municipal elections where they obtained the first favourable results that allowed them to elect their councillors. Subsequently, they supported the elections of Governors and CORES, and concluded with a very strong campaign both in the Primaries and for the parliamentary elections in which they won the re-election of Deputy Tomás Hirsch and the inclusion in their ranks of the recently elected Deputy Ana María Gazmuri. They campaigned for the second round of the elections where, with all the forces of Apruebo Dignidad, they achieved the massive vote that put Gabriel Boric Font in the Presidency of the country.
They then went on to form, albeit still as the Acción Humanista movement, the political team on which the new government is relying. Marilén Cabrera was nominated to the Undersecretary of National Assets, they obtained several Seremías in different regions and also a series of other public posts.
While they were trying to gather all the signatures that would allow them to become a legal political party, they worked day by day for the possibility of approving the new constitutional charter in the exit plebiscite and, together with 38% of the population, this time they failed miserably.
However, their work over the last two and a half years has been plagued by solidarity campaigns, forums, retreats, activities, meetings, gatherings and so on. There has been a strong press coverage, especially by Deputy Tomás Hirsch, but also by several others.
And today they have been legalised. With this, Humanism once again has a legal political party in Chile, and that is good news. Tremendous news. It is now called #AcciónHumanista and it carries the spirit that has characterised humanists since the 1980s.
Following Humanists International‘s expression of deep concern regarding what it has called “the judicial harassment of poet and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai“, Humanist Ottawa has issued a letter to the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou.
In the letter, Humanist OttawaPresident Robert Hamilton expressed the organization’s “deep concern for the egregious actions taken by CERC Migration and Integration and Toronto Metropolitan University against filmmaker Leena Manimekalia and her short artistic film, “Kaali.“
Humanist Ottawa asserted that CERC “asserted a privileged position of your organization over a person of colour and a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community – in glaring opposition to your own stated values of diversity, equity and inclusion. As well, these action unequivocally contravened Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights supporting freedom of thought, conscience and religion.“
Manimekalai, who has previously identified as bi-sexual, had been selected to produce a creative piece on multiculturalism in Canada as part of the national level academic programme ‘Under the Tent’ organized by CERC Migration – Toronto Metropolitan University. The film, ‘Kaali’ was launched at the Aga Khan Museum on July 2, 2022.
The documentary film documents Manimekalai in the guise of the Hindu goddess Kali wandering the streets of Toronto at night during a pride festival. Manimekalai observes groups of people out on the town, riding the subway, stopping at a bar, taking selfies with members of the public, and sharing a cigarette with a man on a park bench.
Humanist Ottawa pointed out in their letter to Dr. Triandafyllidou that CERC’s actions “directly empowered others who have disseminated hate speech posters and other social media advocating violence and death against Leena Manimekalai. Your actions have cause the perpetration of flagrant injustice and have forced Leena to take steps to protect her safety.”
Maintaining an intent to promote diversity and inclusive values, Maimekalai was quoted in the New Indian Express as saying: “Kaali, the film is all about choosing love and championing humanity. Trolls who are witch-hunting me are fueled by hate. They have nothing to do with faith. If they are patient enough to watch the film they might choose love. But that’s exactly why they want the film to be banned.”
Taking aim at CERC’s status as a federally-funded status, Robert Hamilton also wrote, “In addition, your acquiescent public apology to vague assertions of offence were not only short sighted, but were indeed corrosive to individual freedoms that Canadians cherish and have fought to preserve including the freedom to express artistic and religious idea.
Finally, you took quick actions against the filmmaker without due consideration to the foreseeably dangerous consequences that could ensue. This speaks to a failure in judgement and accountability unworthy of a federally-funded program and an institution of higher learning. Canadians deserve and expect better than this.“
On 4 July, the High Commission of India in Ottawa issued a statement calling on the Canadian authorities and event organizers to withdraw her film. Her film was subsequently withdrawn and her name removed from the ‘Under the Tent’ programme by Toronto Metropolitan University, while Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum host to a screening of her film apologized for any offence caused by the film.In India, a de facto ‘blasphemy’ provision , Section 295A of the IPC allows up to three years imprisonment for “whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of a class.”
To date, CERC does not appear to have provided any public statement of how it may plan to take accountability for its contributions to the risks faced by Manimekalai. Humanist Ottawa provided some expectations from the perspective of the organization’s inclusive humanist values:
Accordingly, we therefore urge you to:
Promptly express a public apology to the filmmaker, Leena Manimekalai
Publicly articulate support for the legal, free expression of thoughts and ideas
Financially compensate the filmmaker for the pain and suffering that she continues to endure
Financially underwrite all expenses needed to ensure the safety and security of the filmmaker
HumanistFreedoms.com encourages you to share your perspective on this situation with Dr. Triandafyllidou by writing a letter of your own – and by commenting in this post.
In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following articles and studies were located on the Humanists International website and in several online publications.
Humanists International is deeply concerned to learn of the judicial harassment of poet and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai, who is currently facing accusations of “hurting religious sentiments” in connection with her latest documentary short ‘Kaali’.
Leena Manimekalai – a published poet and award-winning filmmaker, who is studying for an MFA in Canada – was selected to produce a creative piece on multiculturalism in Canada as part of the national level academic programme ‘Under the Tent’ organized by CERC Migration – Toronto Metropolitan University. Her project, ‘Kaali’ was launched at Aga Khan Museum on 2 July 2022.
The short film shows the Hindu goddess Kali wandering the streets of Toronto at night during a pride festival, observing groups of people out on the town, riding the subway, stopping at a bar, taking selfies with members of the public, and sharing a cigarette with a man on a park bench. The poster for the film shows Kaali – played by Manimekalai – smoking, holding an LGBTI+ flag.
She is quoted in the New Indian Express as saying: “Kaali, the film is all about choosing love and championing humanity. Trolls who are witch-hunting me are fueled by hate. They have nothing to do with faith. If they are patient enough to watch the film they might choose love. But that’s exactly why they want the film to be banned.”
Manimekalai announces the screening of her film ‘Kaali’ on social media
Since sharing the poster which went viral on social media, Manimekalai has faced a barrage of death threats, a campaign of harassment on social media – with the hashtag #arrestleenamanimekalai trending on Twitter India – and legal complaints filed against her by right-wing Hindu nationalists in India.
Speaking to The Hindu, Manimekalai stated, “My intention is not to provoke. […] By succumbing to fundamentalist elements, Toronto Metropolitan University and Aga Khan Museum have compromised on academic and artistic freedom.”
To date, Manimekalai is aware of at least nine First Information Reports (FIR) – an official legal complaint that initiates a police investigation – filed with local authorities in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, and Madhya Pradesh. The petitioners allege that Manimekalai has breached a range of laws, including Article 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.
A de facto ‘blasphemy’ provision, Section 295A of the IPC allows up to three years imprisonment for “whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of a class.”
In addition, a court in Delhi has reportedly issued a summons for Manimekalai and her company to appear in court on 6 August in connection with a civil complaint filed against her.
Humanists International fears that filmmaker Leena Manimekalai is being targeted for her peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of religion or belief and expression. The organization calls on the Indian authorities to drop all investigations relating to the film, and to repeal its ‘blasphemy’ laws.
In a communiqué entitled “Nonviolence, an urgent commitment”, the Humanist Movement of Cordoba welcomed the initiative of the League of Governors to “make visible the need to install Peace and Nonviolence as guiding principles of life in common in Argentinean society”.
The mention refers to the document signed by the governors of 15 Argentine provinces a few days afterwards the failed attack against Vice-President Cristina Fernández, which, among other issues, expresses the recommendation to President Alberto Fernández to create a “Commission for Peace and Non-Violence”. We want to reaffirm the need to contribute together to a climate of national pacification,” the governors said.
For their part, the militants of New Humanism pointed out how their movement has worked since its origins “to forge and expand a culture of non-violence, promoting numerous actions in all fields of social activity”.
It is important to remember, in the context of this statement, the hostile framework in which the movement emerged. Its first public event took place in 1969, in the midst of the Onganía dictatorship, in a mountainous area near the Andes, due to the military regime’s repeated prohibitions on making its message heard in urban centres. Proscription and persecution continued and forced many of its activists into exile.
Already in that first harangue, its founder, Silo, would expand the vulgar conception of the term “violence” by saying: “Violence in man, moved by desires, does not remain only as a disease in his consciousness, but acts in the world of other men, exercising itself with the rest of the people. Do not think that I speak of violence as referring only to the armed act of war, where men tear other men to pieces. That is a form of physical violence. There is economic violence: economic violence is violence that makes you exploit another; economic violence is when you steal from another, when you are no longer a brother to another, but a bird of prey for your brother. There is also racial violence: do you think you do not exercise violence when you persecute someone who is of a different race to you, do you think you do not exercise violence when you defame them because they are of a different race to you? There is religious violence: do you think that you do not exercise violence when you give us work, or close the doors, or fire someone, because he is not of your own religion? Do you think that it is not violence to encircle someone who does not agree with your principles by defamation; to encircle him in his family, to encircle him among his beloved people, because he does not agree with your religion?
In line with this message, the signatories of the communiqué affirm that non-violence should be the central axis of a state policy that aims to “transform the conditions that generate different forms of violence.
The statement released affirms that, in addition to overcoming unworthy social situations, it is necessary “a profound process of reflection so that the universal premise of relationship is to treat others the same way we want to be treated.”
Finally, it calls on each person to actively commit themselves to Nonviolence, from their place of influence, in order to “build the world that we want, need and deserve as human beings”.
The Humanist Movement of Cordoba welcomes the initiative of the League of Governors to make visible the need to install Peace and Nonviolence as guiding principles of life in common in Argentinean society.
Since its origins, New Humanism has worked tirelessly to forge and expand a culture of Nonviolence, promoting numerous actions in all fields of social activity.
We believe that Nonviolence must become the axis of State policies aimed at transforming the conditions that generate different forms of violence.
We also affirm that well-intentioned declarations and regulations will not be enough to achieve this goal if people do not intend to initiate a profound process of reflection so that the universal premise of relationships is to treat others in the same way we want to be treated.
We call on society as a whole to make an active commitment to Nonviolence in order to build the world we want, need and deserve as human beings.
HUMANIST MOVEMENT OF CORDOBA Cordoba, September 2022
World Without Wars and Without Violence Cordoba Centre for Humanist Studies of Cordoba Humanist Party Cordoba The Community for Human Development Cordoba Humanist Feminists Cassandra Base Team Humanist Party The Community for Human Development Salta Intentional Community Abriendo Futuro (Opening the Future) Social Humanism. Puerto General San Martín, Santa Fe Humanist Neighbourhood Movement Moreno THE COMMUNITY for Human Development (Aso.Civil) Humanist Feminists La Pampa. Humanist Feminists Cordoba Community of Silo’s Message, Cordoba Community of Silo’s Message Humanist Party of Entre Rios Humanist Feminists Alberti COPEHU- Cordoba. Universalist Humanist Pedagogical Current of Cordoba Convex Concave Community of Villa Crespo CABA Collective for nonviolence Mar del Plata
Pamela Facello, humanist from Entre Rios Diana Varela, retired. Alejandra Elena Vittar, Teacher Tala Gonzalez, Arturo Lorusso – retired Alberto José Castro, teacher Nélida Ester Rey, retired. Claudia Monica Varela, Kinesiologist Ana Tolcachier, Student Eloy de LLamas, visual arts Haro Paz Juanito, computer scientist Margarita Ponce de Leon, retired Conny Henrichmann, translator Andrea Franco, Humanist activist. Mum, trader. Noe Costas Silvia Tabarini – retired Ochoa Graciela, Humanist feminist. Sandra Lewy Smith Marello, Danilo. Teacher Guillermina Rodríguez, Peronist, Mataderos Ana Maria Ferreyra, Pensioner Hugo Alberto Cammarata Gerardo Spidalieri Omar Abraham, Trader Cynthia Fisdel, Humanist Javier Tolcachier, Communicator Bernardita Zalisñak Gabriela Inés Adorni, Psychologist. Susana Malvasio, Pensioner Paulina Peralta, student Valentina Cusmai, student Pamela Taverna – Psychologist Juan Armando Caro – Designer Pablo Sequeira, Salesman César Almada Carmela Acebedo, student Carlos Alberto Flores, Independent Juana Aurora Barragan, Socio Therapist Operator Agostina Beccaria, employee Sol Arrieta, work in an electronics repair shop Alejandro Tolcachier, Lic. in Mathematics, Doctoral Student Hugo Omar Moyano, Humanist T. Miriam Moyano, retired teacher
Toyin Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin. He joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in 1991, and has also held short-term teaching appointments at the University of Cambridge in England, York University in Canada, Smith College of Massachusetts in the United States, The Australian National University in Canberra, Australia and the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos, Nigeria. Falola is author and editor of more than one hundred books, and he is the general editor of the Cambria African Studies Series (Cambria Press).
Excerpt of the Convocation Lecture
2021 Nigerian Academy of Letters
Many would agree that when the core principles and values inherent in humanism–rationality, reason, compassion, human dignity, fellow-feeling, freedom, love, and kindness–are in deficit in society, a vacuum is created and all manner of dogmas, doctrines, superstitions, theories, and abstractions hold sway. Human values are required to be reassembled and restored as a result of these failings and pitfalls– which include war mongering, stoked by the availability of superior and sophisticated weaponry, moral bankruptcy such as corruption and the corruptibility of power, pride, greed, rapacious avarice, religious fanaticism, ethnic irredentism. They defray from humanism and all need to be eliminated for the re-affirmation of humanity. Among these pitfalls, also is the “robotization” and “thingification” of humanity, resulting from advanced technological innovation and artificial intelligence.
By electing to deploy literature, music, and the media among the diverse tools and fields of the humanities, to mediate its ideology, humanism, the thought of the choice of three, just three, rests on the three witches at the opening of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. There is tempo-spatiality (time and space–of when and where); There is so much metaphorical witchcraft in the arts–all of them, literature, theatre, film, music, and the media. When you fold or scaffold time and ages into a few hours, “hold eternity in the air,” take on persons and characters into oneself, remove costumes and make-ups, and wake up instantly from death to active life without the miracle of Christ, confer immediacy upon news and news paces, record events into soundtracks and sound bites, and make them live in the real world, you confront the witchcraft and the magic of the arts–the humanities. So, the idea of echoing the witches and their witchcraft is not too far-fetched; after all; it is not stretching the imagination too thin, as is done in our vocational engagement in the arts.
The Yoruba Nollywood talks of Idan, which is magic. Apidan, the magic-makers, the theatricians, the actors, the storytellers, and the whole process of their art of creation on stage, screen, studios, and so on. And timing (the duration) of the clap-trap of lightning–the age of cataclysm, violent eruptions in the streets, outright warfare, which is actually what the witches were referring to, plagues, epidemics and pandemics, tornadoes, massive flooding, ravaging fires, earthquakes; chaos, banditry, kidnapping, dystopia, and the likes. These do not make the echoes of witches, magic, and the cult of Iyas (mothers) too intriguing or too dissimilar to the world of the arts.
In all the ages, writers covet the news space for self-expression to say the things that must be said urgently and to test the waters of their creation as they form words from their thoughts–poetry, prose, drama sketches. In that sense, there is an intriguing love relationship between the media and literature. Throughout time, men of letters seek refuge in the media as they mold their blocks of expression that are later turned into books. The role of newspapers in the evolution of literature drew the writers into the waiting arms of the media, newspapers to be specific, in a relationship that has become permanent, as the newspapers, periodicals, and journals and their creators themselves became a new type of literature and literary artists. Therefore, from the 18th century on, the inventors of the periodical essays extended the tactic of the fictitious self into the new territory and became writers.
All over the world, including in Nigeria, overt and subtle control proved incapable of stemming the growth of the media industry. The creeping in of censorship to control the opinions and feelings expressed in rapidly popularizing media had begun to accommodate issues and topics on politics, the lives of public individuals and businesses. Its popularity generated the desire of governments to control what would come out in the newspaper the following morning. Patricians and politicians tried hard to control the press, to dictate its views, and to contain its criticisms, but in Britain (and I daresay everywhere, including in Nigeria), the media and literary realms and phenomena proved too large for such ‘arrant limitations.’
Getting too hot and pinching the skin and the nerves, the government created “licensers of the press” to hunt down heretical and seditious publications and through strict licensing laws to limit the flow and narrow the range of newsprint, but whenever these laws lapsed, innovations in newspapers abounded before new forbidding laws are created. The bid to kill freedom of speech, arising from the gradual dehumanizing capacity and strategies of the powerful, had been there and it remains with us today. We must reach out to our society where the contribution of the media in those early days of independence struggle was valiantly resisted by the colonial authority. The politicians (civilian and military) inherited that strategy to control and censor the media. The draconic decrees to muzzle and snuff out freedom of the press and literature are evidence of the descent from humanism, derived from debased and depraved corruption of power in our country and continent.
Literature stands as a bridge-head between music and the media. Just as the media and literature are inextricably linked in a Siamese-twins relationship, so do literature and music bond in close affinity such that, many times, it became difficult to draw distinct lines between the two. Poets were considered as failed musicians and musicians as failed poets, and when those whom the world considers pop culture musicians began to win the Nobel Prize for literature (Bob Dylan, for instance), the separation line between the two blurs and melts into oblivion. Music became a friend of the media as literature, a friend of music, is the original friend of the media. So much for the justification of the meeting of three subfields of the humanities for mediating humanism!
As succinctly captured above, humanism, which I consider the ideological plank of humanity, reclines on the principles of reason and rationality. To attain a better society where love, humane value, and freedom reign, away from excessive religiosity (not religion), the human agency places the power for individual action in some other forces outside of the self and has brought so much human destruction since many centuries ago. There abound myriad theories of humanism since the age of the Renaissance. For instance, humanistic psychology emerged in the mid-20th century as a rebuttal to the limiting cynicisms of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, and B. F. Skinner’s behaviourism provides “a perspective that emphasizes’’ and ‘stresses concepts such as free will and self-efficacy.” In line with my offering above, humanism has been rendered as a “philosophy that stresses the importance of human factors rather than looking at religious, divine, or spiritual matters.” It is perceived as being “rooted in the idea that people have an ethical responsibility to lead lives that are personally fulfilling while at the same breath, contributing to the greater good for all people.”
The essence of humanism is its advancement of the significance of human values and dignity. People possess the capacity to solve their problems through rational and scientific means to attain the fulfilment of individual and communal ideals and to transform the world into a better liveable place for all people. For many centuries, the tragic emotions and irrationality that dominate religious dogmas and fanaticism, leading to extreme violent movements on intra-religious bases, have had lethal and mortal outcomes on humanity. To the media, the question is, how much information have they rendered to us in recent times, and in our search for truth which ought to promote peace but have provoked wars and battlements?
I will like to write on the passionate assessment of the descent to the barbarism of the media–traditional and social–in Nigeria and elsewhere to get a perspective of the state of our and the world’s media. On February 21, a prominent Nigerian female journalist, Kadaria Ahmed, gave a very passionate, captivating, and no holds barred address titled “My Message to the Nigeria Media,” whose altruism has been challenged by other prominent journalists. Kadaria Ahmed’s address would have simply gone down as a classic on the need and essence of media practitioners to shun ethnic profiling and return to the traditional, noble profession of truth-telling and leading the nation aright in times of national crisis. Kadaria wrote thus:
It is with a heavy heart, worried of Nigeria and a sense of impending doom
That I am sending this to you, my colleagues,
Let me begin with a question;
What exactly will we gain if Nigeria descends into war?
How does it advance us if our fellow citizens turn on each other
And begin large-scale ethnic killings against each other…
How does enabling ethnic strife help to achieve this objective?
For some time now, a lot of us has thrown away the book on ethical reporting
Propelled by emotion, we have betrayed every moral consideration
That assigns our noble profession
But the critical probing to the other side of the coin happily carried out by Tayo Olu in The Whistler of February 15, 2021, titled “Attack on Nigerian Media,” has helped to put the “attack” by Kadaria in context without necessarily defraying from the value of her address.
Tayo Olu shed light on the reaction of Kadaria’s colleagues’ overt “scathing criticism of journalists’ reportage of the herdsmen crisis in the country” and for “fanning the flames of ethnic hate through their coverage of the crisis involving mainly the Fulani ethnic group.” Reactions came first from the Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Chapter, Emmanuel Ogbeche, Ibanga Isine of Next Edition, and Ekhator Ehi, among others. The rationale of these accusations and counter-accusations among media practitioners is the reality of crass partisanship in the media at a time when they should be the true watchdog of the common folks on whose behalf they ought to speak truth to power and denounce agents of violence and crime. At a time when our humanity is badly assailed on all fronts, the media should be a rallying point and not a house of raucous voices.
Social media, on its part, has nearly swamped the traditional media in this digital age. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Linked In, and the likes have become dominant tools of engagement all over the world, and our country has embraced it irreversibly. Whereas it has increased the democratic space and has been deployed by both government and the citizens, it is radically redefining the nature of engagement (especially political) between the citizens and the state all over the world. It has also generated a lot of conflict and tension because of its massive usage and has brought the two into more direct interaction, and the government can no longer monopolize free speech. Its power (the power of technology that it uses) lies in its immediacy, speed, political reach, and its uncontrollability.
It is projected that in the next few years in Nigeria, the deployment of social media will increase “by more than 80 percent with more than 44 million people accessing online forms in a demography of about 200 million.” The state worries about the potential of social media abuses to undermine the state and ‘threaten the corporate existence of the nation. Yet, apart from its capacity to widen dialogue space, its economic development/utility reality, put at about 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and used by nearly 25 million people, makes it unstoppable in Nigeria. There is the debate of the mutual advantage of communication technology (in which Twitter is critical) to both government and the citizens and, thus, the increasing local, national, and international criticism of Twitter’s censor as impeding the nation’s humanity and freedom of expression. As this debate rages, the state must tread softly in its drive to hammer social media, recognize its universal nature, its mutual advantage in a democracy, and its humanizing power.
And to music, I find the danger of the descent of humanism pointedly depicted in the music of I. K. Dairo, as far back as the early sixties, and which still rings screamingly prophetic today. His album Ise Ori Ran mi ni mo se (loosely translated as “I do the job assigned to me by destiny”) ramifies this message of the need to restore humanism in society. Every line of this album warns against the dehumanizing power of greed and self-debasement in the search for sudden and filthy wealth. The inordinate search for crass materialism demeans and dehumanizes the world and sets it on the path of descending humanism. Many of our musicians; Fela, Idreez, and so on, make this frantic call on all of us, especially the state, to pursue the path of humanizing society.
As we all know, literature is a reflection of society, in the manner of a mirror. Beyond mere reflection, it refracts society in the way that the soul breathes life into the body. Literature, therefore, as an arm of the creative industry, endows, ennobles, and enriches a nation’s humanity. It advertises and tells its story. Politics and matters of an imperatively political nature have, for instance, in the African experience, preoccupied the literary establishment. Since the colonial aegis, our writers have put their songs and stories in the service of humanizing our society, committed to the fact that “the poet speaks not for himself only but also for his fellowmen. His cry is their cry, which only he can utter.” All this is in the project of reconstructing society in the moment of declining, degenerating humanity, and the pursuit of viable nationhood and the world order.
Generally speaking, Nigeria’s literature predating the fratricidal war of 1967 to 1970 was essentially in search of a certain socio-spiritual and cultural stability. This is especially so during the cultural nationalism phase, which set the tone for political independence from the hegemonic clutch of colonialism and imperialism. But the war, with all its absurdity and catastrophic devastation of the individual writers, due to suffering and considerable loss of lives at very close and personal levels, compel the literary characterization of the decline or indeed descent of our nation’s humanism.
Even though I had described in a previous study on the Civil War, that the war wrought a serious body of national literature, its blight compelled a certain kind of dark pessimism and cynicism in the emerging visions. This may have been caused by the deep sense of loss, personal and collective, which the war generated. Okigbo died in the war, Soyinka suffered protracted solitary confinement, and Achebe and Clark, on different sides of the nation’s pole, carried huge emotional and psychological burdens. The sowing of regenerative seeds in the flesh of the country carried tragic overtones, as we found in some of the war and post-war writings. Additionally, the Nigerian Civil War is used as a background against which the human condition is examined in its perverseness. War is absurd and irrational. The regime of bestiality characterized by war–pogroms and genocides–which tend toward the deployment of technology and war weaponry can lead to ultimate human extinction. Through war, wanton killing of one’s kind is the expression of the philosophy of the absurd and the descent from humanism.
With the ravaging impact and the trauma inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts of creation and creativity, with a positive, cathartic sensibility, have moved on, as we find in Of Shadows and Rainbows: Musings in Times of Covid (2021), a COVID-19, PEN Nigerian publication of poems, short stories, playlets, and essays edited by Olu Obafemi and Folu Agoi. Leaping out of the pages of this publication are lines from the authors “gripped by emotions, paroxysms, compassion, searching for startling enlightenment, illumination and, in many cases, reconstructive tropes” as an affirmation of humanism. Other evolving creative works include the Platform, All Poets Network (APNET), created to promote poetry in English and native languages in this pestilent era and administered by Dzukogi, Khalid Imam, Ola Ifatimehin, and Ismael Baba to “give voice to young and established poets from all continents of the world,” and many more.
The Nigerian society is going through a transition of bleakness and blight, which has raged since the war and truly never ended, reaching very precipitous climaxes even under civil democracy. I have called it the descent from humanism which I have chosen to illustrate with music, the media, and literature. Unorthodox warfare through insurgency, insurrection, frightening banditry, armed herdsmen, lethal violence, dystopia, and wild social incoherence manifests our nation’s descent from humanism. The mediatory and recuperative essence and power have been explored here somewhat. Part of my recommendations is that the media, music, and literature should become more prophetic and politically more engaged in raising mass awareness to restore, rekindle, and promote humanism and humanity. Also, the essentialist principle of humanism, which deals with identity retrieval and identity marking, should be more robustly engaged by the media through investigative and development journalism in tracking the concrete character and identity of the bandits, herdsmen, and other agencies of insurrection and insurgency on our land.
Taking due cognizance of the present realities in the country as imposed by the pandemic, we must wake to the need for science, technology, and the humanities to focus conversations on humanistic issues, and human and social welfare. We must also concentrate our efforts on the centrality of the human race rather than building knowledge that will lead to its destruction and extinction. Innovations should focus on the discovery of the human inner strength and capacities through critical and constructive reasoning to sustain humanity and the security of the coming generations. To conclude, in order to establish an inclusive democratic society for everyone, the nation, the states, in particular, should work in collaboration with agencies of humanism, as extolled in this essay, rather than foster mutual distrust and resentment.
Humanist International defines itself as “the global representative body of the humanist movement, uniting a diverse community of non-religious organizations and individuals. Inspired by humanist values, we are optimistic for a world where everyone can have a dignified and fulfilling life. We build, support and represent the global humanist movement and work to champion human rights and secularism.”
In other words, Humanist International strives to be the global voice for humanism. The organization held its annual General Assembly (i.e. governance and policy meetings) in Glasgow, Scotland (UK) from June 3-5 this year. The 2022 assembly represented a landmark as it marked the 70th anniversary of the first World Humanist Congress.
Back in 1952, the first World Humanist Congress launched The Amsterdam Declaration, a document which intended to articulate a set of agreed-upon fundamental principles of “modern humanism“.
Somewhat parenthetically, visitors to HumanistFreedoms.com may observe that we use the term “contemporary applied humanism” to describe our content rather than “modernapplied humanism”. This choice is a deliberate choice as there are philosophical and semantic implications of the term “modernism” which are, to say the least, problematic.
Qualms and quibbles over terminology, such as we’ve just touched-upon, can be a necessary thing. Which is, presumably, why Humanists International included in its celebration of 70 years of existence, an update and relaunch of the 1952 original (and its 2002 revision) which is currently being called The Amsterdam Declaration 2022. It seems a bit odd that the new document hasn’t been called The Glasgow Declaration or even The Glasgow Revision of the Noordwijkerhoutu Update of the Amsterdam Declaration – but such is the nature of geo-political sentimentalism, traditionalism and authorial pride. It weens its way into just about everything to the extent that a “global” declaration must necessarily be tied to a specific set of meetings and those who attended.
How about “Global Declaration of Humanism III” and let everyone own it in the time and place of their own? Just a thought.
Humanists International have published an educational video for those who may be interested in the history and details which includes recitations of the text.
On the Humanists International website, the organization explains that the original declaration was a “child of its time” . The implication is that the original needed revision to bring it into alignment with contemporary perspectives and issues – that is to say, the tastes and attitudes of organization-based humanists of 2022.
Here is what the organized and political Humanists have establishes as the fundamental principles of humanism in 2022:
“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 tranquility. 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 endeavor.
Is this a perfectly-achieved declaration? Certainly not. There are plenty of quibbles and nuances that probably need to be given some attention. But it may well be more adequate to serve most contemporary humanists needs and preferences when it comes to something like this than its 1952 and 2002 predecessors. Or maybe not.
Setting qualms and quibbles aside – it is a good thing that Humanists International and the growing number of national and local organizations continue to update and revise their public positions. Any organization which believes that it has nailed these things down once-and-for-all begins to dance the dance of dogma. We wouldn’t want that.
Nor would we want a Global Declaration of Fundamental Principles that we fully agree-with and are satisfied-by. A document like that seems like it would probably find itself out of relevance pretty damn quick. So let’s embrace those qualms and quibbles for what they are – indicators of the kind of progress we’d like to see within contemporary and future applied humanism.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
Citations, References And Other Reading
Featured Photo Courtesy of: Humanists International
On 12 August 2022, Salman Rushdie was brutally attacked and severely injured during a speaking event in Chautauqua, New York. As a publication devoted to humanism and human rights – including the right to freedom of expression which is so fundamentally linked to this situation – HumanistFreedoms.com condemns the attack and expresses hope for Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie’s best possible recovery.
While there are many stories about the attack in mainstream media providing reports of the attempted murder, the attacker’s name and hints to his motivation, these particulars seem to be little more than incidental to the attack. There seems to be little point in re-sharing information that is so readily available . Indeed, there seems to be much more sense in focusing on who the attacker was in the bigger picture. This latest attacker was nothing other than the inevitable and violent hand of extremist ideology.
Some of us at HumanistFreedoms.com had the opportunity and privilege to attend Rushdie’s reading from one of his novels when he visited the Toronto Public Library in 2015. It was a lovely and engaging evening – exactly the way attending a reading ought to be. The way the event in Chautauqua ought to have been. A room full of mostly mild, curious and intelligent individuals; a brief and charming interview; an author sharing their own voice with those who wished to hear it. It was the kind of thing Rushdie had so clearly been doing for many previous years and clearly expected to do for many future years as well. After all, who goes to hear an author speak other than those who want to hear what he has written and may have to say about it?
It is not possible, however, to have attended a reading by Salman Rushdie without being aware that he had lived under the threat of attack and assassination since 1989 when a fanatical ideologue and politician issued a faith-based assassination order against him. His conversation never seems to be far from that simple fact nor from the implications that it carried: sometimes people attend these events to prevent others from hearing the things that may be said.
The fact that the fanatical politician/ideologue/religious leader who had ordered the assassination happened to be a high ranking Shia clergy member and the “supreme leader” of a nation ought to have been enough to keep fanaticism and the perpetual probability of violence on anybody’s mind. In 1989, someone tried to complete the assassination and blew himself (and some of a hotel) up. Apparently there is a shrine in Tehran describing the person
as a “martyr”. in other words, a religious hero.
Fanaticism is a state that must be developed, encouraged and maintained. It must be cultivated. The fanatic and their cultivator each bear a portion of the responsibility for any violence which they promote and enact. To claim anything else is cowardice, at best – but more probably an indicator of traits worse by far than mere cowardice.
In the Iranian government’s first public comment on this more recent attack, its foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said “Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie, we do not consider anyone other than [Rushdie] and his supporters worthy of blame and even condemnation.” The message is clear when it comes to ideologues. Cross them and you’ll get what they think you deserve.
But not everyone is like that. Not everyone flinches from truth.
The attacker’s mother had some different perspectives to offer, “As I said to the FBI I’m not going to bother talking to him again. He’s responsible for his actions. I have another two minors that I need to take care of. They are upset, they’re shocked. All we can do is try to move on from this, without him.“
Only a few things more need to be said in context of an initial reaction to this brutality. Violence is the inevitable conclusion when extremist ideology, and let us emphasize any extremist ideology, is left unchecked, when fanatics are allowed to persist in delusions that their opinions and preferences cannot be challenged, when destroying another human being is considered a morally-entitled response to being offended.
And what do the humanist organizations have to say so far? We might have wished for more…and more emphatic than what we have been able to locate so far (Frankly, Rex Murphy seems to have done a better job of it). But we searched several prominent English-language humanist organizations with Salman Rushdie’s name and here is what we found on 2022/08/16
Unrelated to the attempted slaughter of an author by the violent hand of ideologues, one of our humanist mentors had recently shared a quotation from Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
To all of Don’s many friends and family, HumanistFreedoms.com would like to express our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy. if you have memories or sentiments to share, please add them as comments or send an email and we’ll be proud to share them on this page.
Recollection by Eric Adriaans
A little over a week ago, I received an email message from an old friend that said simply, “Don died on Sunday. We’re all a bit shocked. I’ll let you know more soon.” Messages from old friends can be like that sometimes. There doesn’t really need to be more -every word carries its own freight of memory and significance. Old friends know how utterly, deeply felt and shared is the loss of a friend like Don Cullen.
I first met Don in the cramped and stuffy Toronto offices of Centre For Inquiry Canada (CFIC) at the corner of Yonge & College in the spring of 2014. I had recently joined the organization and wasn’t altogether certain whether I had gotten my myself and my career onto a pretty unusual path. Then Don popped-in for a visit, wearing what seemed to be a kind of trademark big-grin-avec-fishing-vest ensemble, and we chatted for quite a long time.
We chatted about the forming of CFIC and some of the other humanist organizations in Toronto and Canada; also about Don’s interests, career and memories. He told me about the Bohemian Embassy, about his poetry and about his deeply-felt and long-considered ideas about humanism and atheism. Don’s warmth, humour and intelligence were a welcome indication that I probably was on an unusual path – but there was wonderful company to be had. It was Don’s first of many gifts and lessons to me about humanism. It’s a gift I try to carry and share that gift of welcome and community with others.
I wasn’t aware at our first meeting, but Don was one of the people who helped to create CFIC. Later, I was able to obtain some recollections from him about this history and I want to recall some of that here.
In the late 1990’s, a vibrant American import name, Terri Hope, became coordinator of the Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT). Membership was growing and George Baker became a life member. George was a non-academic intellectual. Because of the Great Depression, he had left school in grade seven. Tests for air crew in the Royal Canadian Air Force proved George to be above average intelligence. It got him interested in great ideas. He read, attended lectures.
At that time, HAT had no home base. There was a phone number and an answering machine, a fax number and a website. Many HAT members wanted a store-front, a gathering place….a home. Proposals were made. George Baker was more than interested. Hard work and good luck had brought serious financial rewards and he wished to do something for Humanism.
I had presided over four incarnations of the Bohemian Embassy coffee house where Margaret Atwood, Ian & Sylvia Tyson, Al Purdy, Gordie Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Bill Coshy and many more performed. I arranged a meeting with George. He and I had already become acquainted with the Centre For Inquiry in Amherst, New York. Paul Kurtz, the founder, Tom Flynn and Joe Nickell had spoken at HAT events. I had attended talks in Amherst and CFI presented a 2-day conference at the Ramada Inn on Jarvis Street. They indicated a desire for a Toronto location and sought cooperation from HAT. Nothing resulted. Some say it was apathy among HAT members, fear of American domination or was it that CFI Los Angeles had drained the exchequer!
HAT members Ron Burns and Jim Cranwell joined George and me. Using the CFI model, we envisioned an umbrella organization with HAT, HAC and the Toronto Skeptics sharing the same roof. We needed a location. Feeling a need for more youthful participation, we wanted to be close to the University of Toronto and consulted Neil Wright Real Estate. he found us a location on Harbord Street. It needed a lot of work. George hired an architect. Plans were drawn up. A strike at City Hall delayed approval month after month. George, in his 80s, couldn’t stand the delays. He sold Harbord Street and got out.
Robert Buckman, an internationally famous oncologist had come to Toronto. He had a lot of TV exposure in Great Britain, had partnered with Monty Python’s John Cleese in several projects. He did several programs on TV Ontario. He had a high profile and he replaced Henry Morgantaler as President of HAC. HAT and HAC presented some events under Rob’s direction. Membership at HAT soared well over 200.
Quite separately, things were happening at U of T. It was decided to create a multi-faith Centre. Two students objected. Independently, Jenny Fiddes and Justin Trottier felt that a university should be secular, supporting no religion. Religion might support colleges but not the university. Where did atheists fit !?
George Baker and I heard about it and gave them a couple of hundred bucks for stamps and envelopes. I was on the HAT Board of Directors and proposed for Jenny and Justin to make presentations on the U of T campus. They were successful with considerable interest in Humanism and Atheism. George and I arranged a lunch at Bumpkins Restaurant with Justin, Jenny and Rob Buckman. Rob imagined a Humanist Drop-in Centre near the university. A meeting with Henry Morgantaler, Rob, Ron Burns, Jim Cranwell and me occurred and we decided we would do it. I contacted Mr. Wright and he found 216 Beverly Street.
The umbrella organization idea began to unfold. The skeptics were skeptical and decided not to participate. The Humanist Association of Canada wanted their headquarters to stay in Ottawa. A vote of HAT members was 100% for moving in and the organization was set up. The student team at U of T was enthusiastic….(more on the CFIC website)
It is eminently fitting to re-share one of Don’s own stories. Whether it was the forming and re-forming of the Bohemian Embassy or helping to shape humanist communities – Don seemed always, when I was with him, to be sharing a story. But also creating a stage for those around him to sing just as purely, laugh just as joyfully, think and feel just as deeply and shine just as brightly as he did.
Don was a wonderful human and a wonderful humanist.
Reflections by Richard Thain
I first met Don at a Humanist Association of Canada (HAC) conference almost four decades ago, and it was a pleasure knowing and associating with Don through HAC (now Humanist Canada), Humanist Association of Toronto, Centre for Inquiry Canada, etc.
As most of us know, Don was a creative dynamo, entertainer, writer, and Canadian cultural luminary. In addition to his professional work, Don found the time to support numerous secular humanist organizations. He regularly attended and contributed to humanist conferences, was a founder of Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT), and Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC). Don was an articulate and staunch supporter of all our humanist causes. One of the last conversations he had, before he died, was about how extremely upset he was over the recent news from the USA, regarding the overturning of the Roe (v) Wade decision.
In recent years, while visiting Toronto, I occasionally was able to join Don, Jim Cranwell, and other humanist, atheist friends, at their Friday afternoon social and discussion sessions. The conversations were always fascinating and enlightening, to say the least. On one such visit, he passed me his brilliant Quotesanon pamphlet. The pamphlet included a poem which he had written:
A Found Poem by Don Cullen
An eye for an eye
Makes the whole world blind. *
Only human kindness
Will save humankind. **
* Accredited to M.K. Gandhi
** Accredited to Bertrand Russell
Don Cullen was a thoughtful, generous, creative, and compassionate man. Last week we lost a wonderful friend – a great Canadian humanist.
Citations, References And Other Reading
Feature Image Courtesy: Dr. Richard Thain
The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.
In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was located on the US Department of State Website.
DRL FY20 IRF Promoting and Defending Religious Freedom Inclusive of Atheist, Humanist, Non-Practicing and Non-Affiliated Individuals
The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for projects that support Religious Freedom globally.
“Religious freedom” refers to the right set out in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the freedom to adopt a religion or beliefs, change your beliefs, practice and teach your beliefs (which may include through publications, public and private speech, and the display of religious attire or symbols), gather in community with others to worship and observe your beliefs, and teach your beliefs to your children. It also states that no one shall be subject to coercion that would impair one’s freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his/her choice. Proposed programming must be responsive to restrictions on religious freedom, and must be in line with the U.S. Government’s religious freedom, democracy, governance, and human rights goals.
Applicants will be responsible for ensuring program activities and products are implemented in accordance with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.
DRL’s goal is to ensure everyone enjoys religious freedom, including the freedom to dissent from religious belief and to not practice or adhere to a religion. By not adhering to a predominant religious tradition, many individuals face discrimination in employment, housing, in civil and criminal proceedings, and other areas especially in the context of intersectional identities. DRL’s objective is to combat discrimination, harassment and abuses against atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals of all religious communities by strengthening networks among these communities and providing organizational training and resources.
Activities should take place in 2-3 countries selected withinone of the following regions: South/Central Asia- countries within the SCA region as defined by the State Department; or the Middle East/North Africa (excluding Libya, Syria, and Yemen)- countries within the NEA region as defined by the State Department. Proposals are discouraged from including countries where ongoing conflict or violence would negatively affect beneficiary safety or quality of program oversight and must be accompanied by a strong justification in the proposal narrative should any such countries be included. By addressing and combatting discrimination towards those who are non-affiliated, non-practicing, or of no belief will increase the levels of religious freedom enjoyed by all people.
Expected Program Outcomes include but are not limited to:
Increased availability of mechanisms for members of minorities and marginalized groups – particularly atheists and nonbelievers – to advocate with community leaders and local and regional government officials regarding their religious freedom concerns;
Increased capacity among members of atheist and heterodox individuals to form or join networks or organizations, implement advocacy campaigns, and to engage with the public on issues of tolerance and acceptance of all regardless of faith;
Increased awareness and understanding among relevant government officials and law enforcement of the value and importance of human rights, peace, mutual respect, tolerance, and inclusion for all, irrespective of one’s religion or beliefs;
Increased awareness among citizens at the community level of concepts and implications of religious pluralism, mutual respect and inclusion for all, regardless of religion or belief;
Increased community-level interfaith or advocacy interactions inclusive of atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals (particularly those who are pressured, mandated and/or coerced into religious participation that is contrary to their personal non-belief system or philosophy);
Legal sector actors and/or local government officials are respectful and attentive towards the needs and interests of these individuals.
Program activities could include, but are not limited to:
Creating or strengthening networks of advocates for the diverse communities of atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals of all religious communities in target countries.
Strengthening the capacity of organizations representing diverse communities of atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals of all religious communities to advocate for their rights to political, legal, and societal leaders. Capacity building activities may include improving management structure, public engagement skills, legal rights advocacy, digital security, physical security, psychosocial support and coalition building techniques for these groups regardless of faith affiliation;
Expanding or creating opportunities for dialogue, coalition building, and joint action between faith and non-faith organizations in support of freedom of religion and belief. This can include but is not limited to public fora, town halls, journalism, public outreach/education, media campaigns, small grants, and other work;
Increasing capacity for monitoring and documenting religious freedom abuses or discrimination against individuals because of non-belief or on the basis of frequency/nature of an individual’s religious observance/practices- particularly those who are pressured, mandated, or coerced into religious participation that is contrary to their personal non-belief system or philosophy. Documentation can include: incident reports to support justice sector action, aggregate reports for legal or policy change advocacy, or quantitative reports for advocacy with international or multinational human rights bodies or agencies.
For all programs, projects should aim to have impact that leads to reforms and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources. DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches. This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way. Programs should seek to include groups that can bring perspectives based on their religion (including non-belief), gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity. Programs should be demand-driven and locally led to the extent possible. DRL also requires all of its programming to be non-discriminatory and expects implementers to include strategies for integration of individuals/organizations regardless of religion, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.
Competitive proposals may also include a summary budget and budget narrative for 12 additional months following the proposed period of performance, indicated above. This information should indicate what objective(s) and/or activities could be accomplished with additional time and/or funds beyond the proposed period of performance.
Where appropriate, competitive proposals may include:
Opportunities for beneficiaries to apply their new knowledge and skills in practical efforts;
Solicitation of feedback and suggestions from beneficiaries when developing activities in order to strengthen the sustainability of programs and participant ownership of project outcomes;
Input from participants on sustainability plans and systematic review of the plans throughout the life of the project, with adjustments made as necessary;
Inclusion of vulnerable populations;
Joint identification and definition of key concepts with relevant stakeholders and stakeholder input into project activities;
Systematic follow up with beneficiaries at specific intervals after the completion of activities to track how beneficiaries are retaining new knowledge as well as applying their new skills.
Activities that are not typically allowed include, but are not limited to:
The provision of humanitarian assistance;
English language instruction;
Development of high-tech computer or communications software and/or hardware;
Purely academic exchanges or fellowships;
External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months;
Off-shore activities that are not clearly linked to in-country initiatives and impact or are not necessary per security concerns;
Theoretical explorations of human rights or democracy issues, including projects aimed primarily at research and evaluation that do not incorporate training or capacity-building for local civil society;
Micro-loans or similar small business development initiatives;
Initiatives directed towards a diaspora community rather than current residents of targeted countries.
More available on the US Department of State’s website (link at the top of this article).