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The international humanist community mourns the death of a leader

In memory of Dr. Vijayam, 1 Dec 1936 - 22 May 2020

  • post Type / Members and partners
  • Date / 22 mai 2020

Humanists around the world are mourning the death of Dr Vijayam, a leading Indian humanist and Executive Director of the revolutionary Atheist Centre in south India.

Dr Vijayam was known to many in the humanist movement internationally, through his extensive travels and lead role in developing radical social action programmes, such as Secular Social Work. Dr Vijayam was the Executive Director of the Atheist Centre, a world-renowned centre for promoting human well being and the dignity and autonomy of the individual.

His son, Vikas Gora, has written a touching obituary to his father, in which he says:

“It is with immense pain that I share the demise of my father, Goparaju Vijayam, second son of Gora and Saraswathi Gora, well known social reformers of India, a professor in political science, constitutional authority, peace and environmental activist, an atheist and a humanist leader, a humanitarian practitioner, has succumbed to Alzheimer’s and passed away on May 22, 2020, at 5 a.m., at Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, AP, India”

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, commented:

“Dr. Vijayam was a humanist leader respected not just in his home of India but around the world. He developed new ways of putting our humanist values into action, helping some of the most vulnerable and marginalised in society. All of us at Humanists International send our sympathies to his friends and family, who can surely find comfort in the legacy that Dr. Vijayam leaves for us all.

Levi Fragell, past President of Humanists International (1998-2003) was a close friend of Dr. Vijayam and the Atheist Centre, visiting many times during his tenure as President. Levi added that

“The Atheist centre taught me what humanism is in practise. I visited Vijayam and the Gora family’s projects in several villages more that twenty times.”

Roy Brown preparing to deliver his final speech as a Humanists International delegate to the UNHRC, 9 March 2016

Roy Brown, past President of Humanists International (2003-2006), who knew Dr. Vijayam well, added his own reflections:

“He was a wonderful man. Following the death of his father, the great social reformer, Gora, Dr Vijayam, as the second son, had not expect to succeed as leader of the Atheist Centre. His elder brother Lavanam, was an inspiring speaker but it was Vijayam’s administrative and diplomatic skills that thrust him eventually into the leadership role. and he acquitted himself admirably. He organised biennial World Atheist Conferences in Vijayawada, at several of which I was privileged to speak, but it was the work of the Centre on the ground which will be his lasting legacy. The Centre rescued countless street children and street girls and provided them with a home, food, education and training, and the Centre ran a fully functional hospital providing primary health care and family planning services to the local community. He was greatly respected not only by fellow atheists and Humanists but by the local populace – on one visit we were welcomed as honoured guests in the local Hindu temple.”

“Humanism has lost a great leader and I offer my personal condolences to the family and friends at the Centre.”

Sonja Eggerickx, president of IHEU

Sonja Eggerickx, past President of Humanists International

Sonja Eggerickx, past President of Humanists International (2006-2015) was also a frequent visitor to the Atheist Centre during her time as President. She said:

“I was at the atheist centre for the first time in January 2003. It was a terrible journey from Brussels to Hyderabad, everything that could go wrong, went wrong; It was such a relief when I finally arrived in Vijawada. Dr. Vijayam came to meet me at the train and brought me to the hotel. He told me that he would come for me to visit the Atheist Centre the next day and said I could get clothes from his daughter then, as my luggage was “somewhere”. That was my introduction to the man and his work! I did feel so relieved, so grateful, I really felt the warmth of a community which thought it normal to help those in need. I was very impressed by the Centre, Dr Vijayam was really very impressive.

He could debate, always in a calm, respectful way. I met him at several occasions in other conferences in the Atheist Centre but also during Humanists International conferences and General Assemblies. He was an atheist, a humanist and lived like one! I guess he encountered lot of difficulties in India, made the Atheist Centre an example of empowering the poor, never asked people what their religion was when they came for hide, protection, in the centre. I hope the centre will continue his great work.”

Prof. Narendra Nayak, President of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations (FIRA), added:

“We were a part of a big family, the atheist and humanist one. I used to stay with them when I went there. Today I feel we have lost one our family. There are no other words to describe Dr. Vijayam. He was the patron of FIRA and truly lived up to that role. His loss is truly irreplaceable.”

VB Rawat, Social Development Foundation

VB Rawat, Director of the Social Development Foundation, also reflected on Dr. Vijayam’s legacy:

“He was the pillars of Humanism in India but not very rigid as he was more pragmatic as he felt that fighting against communal-ism is the need of the hour and we need to take into account the Gandhian forces too along with them. He was very pragmatic and knew very well to take the larger issues which were important for all of us as humanist. While our basic framework is devoted to humanism but we need to be pragmatic in terms of building up big alliances against the right wing political forces who were creating divisions and vilifying particular communities and religions.”

Gary McLelland, Chief Executive of Humanists International, also added:

“I had the pleasure of visiting with Dr. Vijayam and his family twice. He welcomed me into his home and introduced me to the amazing achievements of the Atheist Centre. To see their many social programmes in action was a real inspiration for us all.”

 


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