(As IHEYO puts finishing touches to the organisation of this year’s international youth conference in Nepal, YouthSpeak Editor, Yemi Ademowo Johnson, links with the Executive Director of the Society for Humanism, Nepal and Head of the local organising committee for the October conference, Uttam Niraula for a chat. Below is an excerpt of the chat).
YS: Can we meet you, briefly (full name and positions held within the
humanist circuit, local and international)?
Uttam: I am Uttam Niraula, current vice president of IHEYO and the executive director of Society for Humanism (SOCH) Nepal. I have spent about 6 years volunteering within the humanist movement.
YS: Nepal is the host country for the next IHEYO conference, how far with preparations?
Uttam: We are at the peak of our preparations. Venue and accommodation plans are completed. We are also almost through with preliminary discussions on the topics and sub-themes of the conference. Names of guest speakers are also almost finalized. A lot of international friends are contacting us for joining IHEYO conference in Nepal. The whole IHEYO team is also working hard to make the conference a huge success. The entire plan and program schedule will be on IHEYO’s website soon.
YS: Secularism. How did your group arrive at tagging the conference for secularism?
Uttam: Nepal is the youngest secular country in the world. It was declared a secular state about 2 years ago. Before then, Nepal was the only Hindu country in the world. Many religious extremists are still crying foul over this change to secularism and in fact seeking for reversion of that decision. Nepal is also drafting its constitution at the moment. Furthermore, there are lots of religious unrests happening in almost all South Asian countries. Political parties are clearly carrying the religious flags which is the main cause of social unrests and violations of human rights. They are making each person enemy against other community by birth. This is the social schooling which is being propagated by politicians, and of course religious groups (and, very unfortunately, government itself). Until state and beliefs are separated, our society would not be able to make any significant move towards peace and justice. We can see many religious massacres in India, dogmas in Middle East, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is the same in Nepal. It is just because of lack of awareness of secularism. People still do not know the meaning and importance of secularism.
It is against this backdrop that SOCH, Nepal is supporting community and parliament of Nepal in drafting secular constitution which will guarantee the natural justice to all people. We are therefore glad to have IHEYO’s support in further enthreshing and highlighting the essence of secularism during this conference in Nepal. It has two benefits for participants: participants will observe and analyze the process of writing secular constitution in Nepal and also help Nepalese community by showing solidarity for secularism.
YS: What do you think are the roles of and for youths in guaranteeing a secular global community?
Uttam: My only concern is how to spread humanist ideas. For that, organizations like IHEYO, SSA should establish massive youth networking in every corner of the world. Today’s youth should at least see the beauty of the world breaking religious barriers for that is the only way to push the world towards harmony and justice.
YS: Aside talking, talking and talking, what other side attractions should intending participants expect?
Uttam: We are planning to take the participants on a visit to a village where SOCH, Nepal is implementing the sustainable development program. Participants will also visit the parliament of Nepal where the secular constitution of Nepal is being drafted. Of course they are youths so will want some refreshment and recreation, we will assist participants for that as well.
YS: What are your greatest challenges now as local organisers of the international event?
Uttam: We are in political transition in Nepal with a lot of ups and downs at the moment. It is hard for Nepal government to uphold strong sense of the rule of law. Now you can imagine the mamoth of challenges that we, as local organisers, have to surmount. But so far our optimism has brought us thus far and in fact we are more energized and optimistic for the conference now.
YS: Thanks for your time. Do you have any parting shot for us (last words)?
Uttam: I want to welcome all the participants to Nepal. Let’s share and learn ideas of Secularism. It is the first conference in Nepal on this topic as far as I know. So we are going to raise a lot of opportunitiesand dicourses.