Conference Reports

“A Critical Thought is going around the world
5th IHEYO Conference in Vijayawada, India


‘You can listen to the sound of a madel drum which is coming from the roof of the house. There is a mixture of Nepalese sounds, laughter, voices and the noise from the late evening hour.’

In the Atheist Centre, in Vijayawada, more than 50 young people from 11 different countries of four continents came together to fulfil the night with international sounds. It is the 5th IHEYO Conference in which young trainers, youth leaders and teachers from a humanist background worked under the theme „Critical Thinking and Free Inquiry in Education“ for one week.

From 29 October to 4 November the participants went to workshops, seminars, listened to speeches, participated in discussions or just came into an exchange of ideas with other young and active humanists. Important was the exchange of various teaching practices, knowledge on critical thinking and pedagogical methods of teaching. The conference resulted also in some new ideas for collaboration. It was an unique opportunity to initiate many contacts, gain new learning skills, be open to a variety of experiences and strengthen lots of different skills for teaching critical thinking.

The working of the conference was mixed with the lasting and successful working concepts of the Atheist Centre, one of the well known Indian humanist organisations which are working for social equality and human rights. The Atheist Centre is involved in lots of secular activities in the field of social work to promote social changes in a non-violent way.

Part of the tough conference schedule was a field visit to one of the campus areas to see projects of one related group to the centre: the ASM. Here they take care of villages in rural areas that are destroyed by natural disasters or still suffering from underdeveloped structures as there is no water, current power, nor local schools. In many of the villages, ASM (one of the big projects of Atheist Centre) has been working for years with fruitful success thus slowly increasing and establishing long- lasting structures. Every change needs its time.

The conference was a milestone in the young humanist movement as it was the first international humanist youth conference in South Asia. It was a platform for an international exchange between rational, atheist, sceptical and humanist young people.

Humanism means living in a responsible way based on rational, open-minded and independed thinking that you can call ‘critical thinking’. Critical thinking is one of the most important basics for leading an autonomous life. There is still lots of traditional ignorant behaviour through religious belief and violence on human rights. It is relevant to promote tolerance and decrease prejudices. Teaching critical thinking can help promote these positive attitudes among youth.

An international meeting like this is more than just an official conference. It wakes up interest and an understanding for other cultures and strengthens the youngsters to go on in their activities, to make new contacts and to collect new ideas for their work and future. Let us aim for the best.

Silvana Uhlrich
2nd Vice-President IHEYO

*Two pictures taken by Sven Berg Ryen at the conference