Presidential address to IHEU General Assembly

  • post Type / Humanists International News
  • Date / 12 August 2010

general assembly on August 6, 2010, IHEU president Sonja Eggerickx summarized the
organization’s recent developments and future plans:

Dear Friends,

A special welcome this
year to Brussels.
We had planned to hold this meeting in Hyderabad
and are sorry that events made it impossible to go to India this time. We had planned many
things including leadership training, etc, etc.

However, we are very
grateful that the Belgian Humanists offered to take over the organization of
the GA. And for those who thought that French and Dutch speaking people in Belgium cannot
work together, it is not true. Believe me, although language issues are important,
there are a lot of other problems in this country, most similar to other
countries. We are hosted by the CAL
(Centre d’Action Laïque) and together with UVV (Unie Vrijzinnige Verenigingen)
we are all doing everything we can to ensure that the GA arrangements work
well. So many many thanks to all of you for your presence here in Belgium.

I am very happy to report
that our representatives
on international bodies continue their tremendous work. It seems that they
never sleep. The Human Rights Council in Geneva is still a body that does not
always live up to its name but the IHEU representatives do all they can to
preserve its purpose. Our inputs to the debate on Human Rights concentrate on
freedom of speech, on rights of minorities and of women, plus the right to
choose whether to have a religion or not. Of course, there are many other
violations of Human Rights but our team is small and it does everything
possible to make the voice of Humanism heard.

Africa and India
remain important regions for us. I am happy that we were able to listen to Deo yesterday
and will hear him again later today about the schools in Uganda, and about how Humanists are
organising on a continent which is not known for a non-theistic tradition! And
we have all read about the problems of Leo Igwe in Nigeria while trying to make a
difference. Not only has he been attacked and harassed by police but also his
father and brother. Being a Humanist can still be dangerous in many parts of
the world.

We also
heard Babu speak about his never ending struggle to bring rationalism into an
Indian society where religion has such a strong influence and how he tries to
show that society built on superstition and religious dogma is not the way to
democracy, nor to human rights.

We did make progress in developing our contacts in Africa.
It is at an early stage but we have started. We are confident that this will
grow and, for example, the small Senegalese group told me that they would
officially ask for IHEU membership. This is a positive sign and I just mention
them because I received a mail a few days ago telling me that they would go
through the documents.

We also hope to begin to grow our
work in Latin America, although that will not
be easy.

Eastern Europe is another “open” field but even 21 years after the fall
of the Berlin
wall, symbol of the collapse of the communist regimes, it is not evident that people
there make the distinction between their communist past on one side and atheism
or Humanism on the other side. It will be very difficult there as religions are
becoming very strong. New places of worship are being built all over those
countries, mosques as well as churches, and the countries of the former
Yugoslavia are of course examples of what happens when ethnic- and religious-based
conflicts burst out. We see now that they want to have a model allowing them to
live in peace with different denominations. It is important for Humanists to be
there as well and to participate in the discussions about how a more peaceful
society is possible. Although it sometimes looks like very time consuming
discussions leading nowhere, I think we must continue to follow and participate
in those “interreligious” dialogues. Even the Council for a Parliament of the
World’s Religions did recognise that the name was not correct and promised that
they would try to make it clear that Humanists and atheists, are not only welcome
to the meetings of the Parliament, but have a right to take part in the

is vital and I am glad to announce that our website has just had a facelift
with many improvements. But the relations with our Member Organizations are not
ideal. This brings me to my appeal from last year. Please do appoint a contact
person to be responsible for a two-way contact on behalf of each MO. This would
make communication more effective, helping us to give more news about actions,
statements, etc from Humanists all over the world and it would become clearer
what IHEU is expected to do for its members.

We have to
find solutions for the language problem but with goodwill of those who write in
a “foreign” language but also from those who have to understand it, we will
find a good solution. We already have some documents in French and Spanish but
not enough, so please if you know volunteers able to translate, please put them
in touch with our webmaster! We’ve heard about the Google-translation
possibilities and although this is not perfect it could help!

International Humanist News publishes 4 issues a year in
English and one in French. We are setting up an Editorial Board to help the
Editor and we hope this will help us to reach more MOs and generally improve
communication and co-operation.

But Humanism
needs both action and thought about Humanism and ways to reach a more humane
world. I am happy to announce that the EC
has now appointed the members of the new Policy Commission: Roy Brown has
agreed to be the Chair with Alex Kennedy from the BHA heading the Secretariat
and Prakash Narain, India, Margaret Downey, USA, Didrik Soderlind, Norway, Prof
Dabir Tehrani, Scotland, Sam Ayache, France, Prof. A.C. Grayling, England, Staffan
Gunnarson, Sweden and Reta Casper, Switzerland as the other members. (Roy, Alex, Staffan and
Sam are present today). It will be their task to review all policy statements,
to re-word them when necessary, and to suggest changes to the EC.

We are Humanists and should tell the whole world.
And we don’t forget the youngsters, our future! We are very happy that delegates
from IHEYO are here. We also have regular meetings with EHF, and will continue
to meet. It is vital to work together. We must co-operate, not compete wherever
possible if we are to make Humanism stronger!

To end I would like to thank our staff, our
volunteers, our MOs, our delegates, for all the work and the energy they invest
in order to make Humanism and IHEU better and stronger. Thanks so much.

— Sonja Eggerickx, 6 August 2010

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