The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a London based non-governmental organization facilitated a forum under the theme “Humanism and Human Rights in Liberia”.
The objectives of the forum include:
o To meeting with humanist, human rights and student communities in Liberia
o To discuss the challenges facing humanists and human rights activities
o To explore ways of supporting the work of humanist and human activities in Liberia
o To inform Liberia about IHEU, its mission and activities
o To solicit idea of how IHEU. Its mission and activities
o To solicit idea of how IHEU can support the process of peace, reconstruction and rehabilitation in Liberia
Introduction of the conference was done by Mr. Alphonso K. Weah who told participants that the forum was intended to educate Liberians about Humanism and Human Rights and the possibility of establishing a National Humanist Group in Liberia since the need of protecting human rights despite their religion, sex, tribe, political background especially as Liberia move towards recovery
For his part, Kerian N. Pelenah, National Coordinator, Global call to Action against Poverty (GCAP-Liberia), spoke on the topic: “ International Human Rights Law: Its Significance to the International Humanist and Ethical Union”. In his speak, Mr. Pelenah give brief explanation of IHEU.
In his presentation on the topic “Humanism for New Liberia” Mr. Leo Igwe, Representative of IHEU to told participants that he was happy to be in Liberia, Africa’s first republic and brought greetings from the International Humanist and Ethical Union and from all humanist and freethought groups around the globe.
He said that, when freed slaves arrived to Liberia years ago, they came in search of freedom, dignity and equality in quest for a place and a space where their humanity and human rights would be respected. That is why; the country was named Liberia meaning ‘a land of the free’ by its founders. But since independence in 1847, is Liberia always been a land of the free? Has this land of liberty always been a beacon of liberty in Africa? Has Liberia always been a commonwealth, a public property? Inclusion, he said the answer to these questions is in the negative.
Reason been that, poverty, ignorance, corruption, hypocrisy, despair, dogma, pessimism, superstition, blind faith, fringe education, ineptitude, lack of foresight, indolence, bad governance, bad politics, bad leadership, unenlightened self interest, parochial loyalties caused this nation to derail. Hence from 1989 to 1996, this country fought what is regarded as one of the bloodiest civil wars in the history of Africa, that claimed the lives of over 200 000 Liberians. With over 1,000 000 million displaced and forced to live as refugees in Africa and around the world. Mr. Igwe said that, the peace Liberians are currently enjoying was earned at a huge cost. Millions of people from Liberia and beyond paid dearly for it and urge participants to guard the peace jealously, and should not allow the peace to slip from the hands of Liberians again.
He further said in his speech that many African countries are stagnant and backward, plagued with poverty and strife because the governments do not fulfill their human rights obligations. Most people in Africa have allowed faiths and beliefs that alienate and subordinate the human being to some imaginary entities to guide their lives. Africans have not allowed the civilized values of reason, science, critical thinking and human rights to govern them.
Mr. Igwe further said beliefs in witches and wizards, in juju, charms and magical concoctions, in ritual sacrifice of humans and animals, in gods, devils and deities, in spiritual manipulation of issues, in divine revelation, divine intervention, occult powers and the supernatural world, are so entrenched and have refused to go away despite the ‘presence’ of modern science and education. They continue to darken the African society because Africans regard them as truths, as self evident truths that cannot be questioned. Africans have adopted these myths and misconceptions as sacred traditions that should not be critically evaluated or challenged.
Achievements of the forum includes:
o More than 60 persons attended the forum
o More than 20 persons express interest in the National Humanist groups in Liberia
o Meetings with College of Science and Humanity and Student Union at the University of Liberia as well as other meetings with stakeholders including Federation of Liberians Youth (FLY)
o Distribution of IHEU materials to participants and stakeholders to read
Recommendation therefrom are that:
o More of these programs be organize to educate the larger populace about Humanist activities
o A strong Humanist movement be establish and supported
o IHEU and IHEYO visit Liberia to get an insight on Humanist activities in Liberia
In all, the conference can be adjudged to be a huge success!