Professor Christian Colombo – Chair of Humanists Malta, & James Buhagiar – Vice Chair of Humanists Malta
It was a privilege for us, on World Humanist Day this year, 21st of June, to be visiting the Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands (German Humanist Association – HVD). The scale of the association, employing thousands, is something of which we, as a tiny Maltese association run by a small group of volunteers, can only dream!
HVD caters to over seventy thousand students all over the country who choose Humanism as their preferred life stance. It also runs a number of hospices and youth clubs and organizes a Youth Celebration for thousands of adolescents who choose a Humanist coming-of-age ceremony.
During our first day, we attended two classes at the John F. Kennedy School in Berlin, where teachers focused on humans as part of nature, humans sharing the same world, equal rights, equality, freedom, and reason. The first class listened to a podcast the children themselves had scripted and recorded, covering their conclusions about the scholastic year. You can listen to it (in English) here https://youtu.be/m7C8UYUG88I. Far from being prescriptive, the pedagogical style was very democratic, with the role of the teacher being a facilitator who raised questions and moderated the discussion. The second class was for younger children, where the focus was on empowerment, allowing students to showcase something they are good at to the rest of the class.
In the afternoon we visited a children’s hospice where children with various conditions (not necessarily life-threatening) could spend time in a homely, safe, yet stimulating environment. The dedication and professionalism of the staff was impressive, with every possible effort to make the lives of children as good as possible from every angle, including supporting the grieving process when one of them dies.
On the second day, we visited two youth clubs in very different neighbourhoods: the first where most of the youths came from disadvantaged backgrounds; and the second in an affluent part of Berlin. In diametrically opposite situations, the youth still have needs: in the former, attention and care from adults, sometimes even food, and skills to improve their future prospects. In the latter, to find their space, meet friends, and explore their talents without any pressure.
On World Humanist Day, we celebrated the Longing for Peace. The programme consisted of notable speakers, followed by city walks, panel discussions, and uncovering of the rainbow flag. It ended with a lovely evening gathering.
We are very grateful to have had this opportunity. It was beautiful and heartening for us to witness the positive impact humanism is having on so many lives, and we hope to continue to learn from our fellow humanists, and grow together.
We wonder whether, ultimately, the question of belief or not in a god and/or an afterlife might be overrated. Perhaps a better question is how to make the world a better place for ourselves and fellow beings, where pain and suffering are reduced, where everyone can live freely, thrive, and flourish.