IHEYO Previous Conferences
Click here for the 2002 Conference Report
Report of the International Humanist Youth Conference 2003
August 29th to September 2nd, Berlin, Germany.
Click here for pictures of the 2003 Conference
Turning raw material into a finished product is not an easy job. Ask Gea,
Antje, Vincent, Hans Christian and a host of others who made IHEYO-Berlin
2003 a reality and they will easily tell you that the idea just like raw material
is far cry from the finished product which is bound to reflect all efforts
put into it.
IHEYO-Berlin 2003 started as an idea. An idea for continuity after the first
IHEYO conference in Netherlands July, 2002. And today, these enthusiastic
youths has turned that vision into a mission accomplished. IHEYO-Berlin 2003
has come and gone but the memory of the educative, exciting, informative and
entertaining event lingers on. Below is a chronology of how things went at
WELCOME AT H4Y!
Friday, 29th of August, 2003
For four good days, residents of Schönhauser Allee in Berlin witnessed
an influx of fresh residents into their abode, the hotel 4 youth. Although
some participants were around some days before the conference, the conference
did not commence proper until dinner time on Friday, 29th of August 2003.
Before then, participants registration commenced at about 3pm. Antje, Katja
and Nancy of the Junge HumanistInnen (short: JuHus) did a very wonderful job
in dishing out conference materials to arriving participants from all over
Participants were later treated to a palatable welcoming dinner by the organizers.
After the dinner, the conference commence proper with the introduction of
the organizing team. Gea Meijers (IHEYO) took time to introduce other members
of the team: Antje Leuschke (Juhus), Vincent Lloyd (IHEYO) supported by Nancy
Preuss and Katja Schiecke (Juhus).
Then Antje welcome every participant formally and proceed to do an outline
of the conference timetable. Thereafter, it was time to play some welcoming
games. From your height,age and name big circle game to continental game.
In all,the purpose was achieved; we got to know each other. By the time we
were through with all that, we were all exhausted, ready to go to bed.
30th of August, 2003
Waking up in the comfort of your new home can be an exciting experience,
most especially when you get more comfort than you expected. Hotel4youth,
provided the participants a home from home comfort. Breakfast
started at 7:30am till 9:00am after which participants board the train to
the youth center for the conferences first lecture Humanism today.
The keynote speaker, Frieder Otto Wolf of the Humanistischer Verband Deutschland,
really did justice to the topic. He talked on the origin of humanism, Humanism
in the world, Humanism in Europe, Humanism in Germany and Humanism in Berlin.
Finally, he concluded with his view of humanism for the IHEYO Berlin conference
in these words:
it should prepare us to bring humanist
ideas to the world and to wherever we are active in our concrete surroundings
and contexts. In all, it was a very beautiful beginning.
Three moral dilemmas were presented after the lecture and this showed our
commonalities and differences. Especially interesting was to see that all
could agree that one some issues worldwide humanist youth action is possible,
alhtough people differed in how many cases this was possible.
After lunch, it was time to split into workshops. Participants had options
of three main workshops to choose from. These workshops took place on Saturday-afternoon
and Sunday-Afternoon. The following main workshops were held:
1) Religious Fundamentalism and Secularism,
2) Humanism for youth and
3) Humanism in practice (about humanist education and Humanist coming of age
ceremonies). The Humanism for youth-workshop took place only on Saturday-afternoon
and on Sunday-afternoon there was an extra workshop about international youth
humamnism. Here an overview of the three main workshops.
Religious Fundamentalism and Secularism Workshop
(Moderated by Vincent Lloyd U.S.A and Yemi Johnson, NIGERIA)
Today, it is an open secret that religious fundamentalism is fast becoming
an issue one cannot easily brush aside, most especially with the memory of
September 11, 2001 attack. During this workshop different religious fundamentalism
were assesed, Islam Fundamentalism, Christian and Hindu-fundamentalism.
The first speaker was Houzan Mahmoud (an Iraqi woman who lives in London,
and editor of Equal Rights now!). She explained the womens situation
since the American and British invasion of Iraq. According to her, Iraqi women
are more insecure than before as there are more rapes, brutality against women,
crimes, suicides and a lot of other heinous crimes perpetrated primarily against
women in particular.
She also said there have also been instances when the Coalition soldiers
are culpable in these inhuman acts. She is of the view that the Islamic fundamentalist
stance of Iraq is one of the factors that is aiding and abetting this pitiable
Iraqi women stance. To her, religious fundamentalism will be better tackled
when the women are empowered to have economic independence. Conclusively,
she opined that the Islamic legal code (Sharia) is an obsolete law that is
not compatible with modern day reality therefore, she calls for its amendment
to conform with recent global trend.
Yemi Johnson (President, Nigerian Humanist Students Society and now Secretary
General of the IHEYO!) talked about the Sharia law in Northern Nigeria, his
country. According to him, Nigeria is a country of ethno-religious mix; there
are over 100 ethnic groups and over 5 religions. But only 3 are prominent
(popular): Christianity, Islam and Traditional Religion. Islam is predominantly
practised in the North, and Christianity in the South.
Since 1999, when the Islamic legal code was adopted, several Nigerian Muslims
as well as non-Muslims have fallen victim to the Sharia law. Yemi insisted
that one of the problems of the Sharia law is its Patriarchal nature; it favours
men and relegates women to the background. To counteract religious fundamentalism,
he suggested that there should be a vibrant world body for World non-believers
(the humanists) and that an injustice anywhere in religious coloration must
Gert van Eeckhout (from UnieVrijzinnigeVerenigingen and European Humanist
Federation, Belgium) talked about the Christian fundamentalism in Europe.
He said many countries in Europe had fought and some are still fighting for
the separation of State and Religion in all spheres of public life (in education,
schools; about euthanasia, abortion, contraceptives, biomedical research e.t.c).
He made participants realised that the struggle against Christian, (esp. Catholic)
fundamentalism in Europe might not be over if the Article in the draft European
constitution that gave undeserved recognition to Religion, is not amended.
The article in question is ARTICLE 51 which (when approved/ratified) will
give the religions like the Catholic Church a consultative role in Europe!
This simply means that E.U. and indeed the entire European nations might be
smuggling GOD back into public square! Gert then suggested that
IHEYO must collaborate with other youth organisations within the European
bloc to ensure that this plan does not materialise.
Isakwisa Mwakalonge (from SisiKwaSisi, Tanzania) led the participants into
the situation in Tanzania through his paper titled Human Rights in Dilemma.
His major focus in his paper was the right of the unbelievers who are usually
regarded as a nonentity. He opined that religious fundamentalism can further
be reduced if there is awareness of individual rights in the society (especially
in Tanzania). This has been his groups focus and he hopes to further reduce
the menace of Tanzania Christian fundamentalism via his group and through
Laxmi Bhattrai and Bishwa Shah (representatives of youth department of HUMAN,
Nepal), told us about conditions of life and superstition in Nepal that can
make women victims. The major thrust of their papers was about the Hinduism
fundamentalist stance. Muslims and hinduists in Nepal are totally overwhelmed
by superstitions and irrational behaviour. The general perception is that
the supernatural power guides human behaviour and determinate their fates.
The majority of Nepalese are however Hinduists with very little Muslim population.
Both of Communities strongly believe in witchcraft (which could all kind
of suffering, illness or death). And unless witches are not eliminated, the
suffering will continue. Thats why we can find barbaric treatments made
on women who are alleged of practising witchcraft (of course its the
woman whos inferior in those visions of life- that are only responsible
for those kind of societal vices).
Humanism for youth Workshop
(Moderated by Gea Meijers, Netherlands and Ramesh Kumar, India).
During this workshop, the participants analysed why Humanism in some countries
attracts so few youths and what problems youth humanist movements encounter
in attracting youth. This led the participants to examine ways by which young
people can be attracted to humanist activities.
Humanism in Practice Workshop
(Moderated by Hans Christian Nes, Norway and Tryntsje de Groot, Netherlands).
Tryntsje de Groot of the Humanist Education Centre (Humanistisch Vormings
Onderwijs) in the Netherlands gave a presentation on the education method
of "humanist" education that the centre has developed. After this
the workshop focussed especially on non-formal education used in the secular
coming of age ceremonies. In many of the Northern European countries humanist
organizations offer coming of age ceremonies (see last issue of the IHN).
Participants in coming of age ceremonies are usually exposed to a course which
entails discussion on issues like life stance, ethics and human sexuality,
human rights and civic duties. In short, the main question that is usually
addressed during the course is: "how shall we behave towards one another?
This workshop was successful because discussions were held closely to examine
the methodology used in different organisations. Participants were introduced
to different ways of facilitating discussions during coming age ceremonies.
Although there are wide range of methods, the majority of the organizations
as the participants learnt, use games and exercises when they introduce an
Humanist education will also be an important topic at the next IHEYO-conference
in Uganda. This is because we need to develop humanist perspectives and approaches
in education for the benefit of humanity. Humanist education is more than
a methodology; its also an attitude towards the role of education in
In the evening Katja Katja Schiecke treated the participants on a "cultour"
into Berlin, with visits to remains of the wall, the Brandenburger Tor and
the Reichstag. Some participants explored Berlin on their own. Dinners were
served on the Way. Of course many informal discussion took place,
as they took place during the whole conference.
Sunday, August 31st, 2003
Between 7:30am to 9:00am (as usual), we had our breakfast at the hotel before
leaving for the Youth Center to continue our conference business for the day.
Everybody was quite optimistic in their mood for the day, most especially
because the first IHEYO General Assembly would start today! The General Assembly
was chaired by Hans Christian Nes (Norway) while Mikael Ståldal (Sweden)
was the GA secretary. We had in attendance, Rob Buitenweg (one of IHEU Vice-presidents).
The GA commenced with brief a brief overview of IHEYO from Vincent Lloyd and
Gea Meijers. Rob Buitenweg gave a concise history of IHEU, and spoke of two
different forms of humanist activism. One form of humanist activity deals
with humanism as an existential branch, the other form focusses on humanism
as a social ethical set of values that underlie the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. Both forms of humanism call for different kinds of humaist
Rob Buitenweg also spoke about the relationship between IHEYO and IHEU. He
compared the relationship as a relation between grown up children and parents
in a family: both have their own independence, but they share a kinship and
there is an equal exchanging of our ideas. He expressed the wish of the Executive
Committee of IHEU to regard IHEYO an independent (responsible for its own
actions) and related to IHEU.
After the coffee break of fifteen minutes, the GA Chairman took time to read
IHEYO Draft bylaws to the members present. During the reading, some flaws
were noticed which needed to be ratified before the adoption of the bylaws.
The Chairman therefore advised any member present to note the affected sections
and articles and suggest an amendment so that it can then be proposed to the
entire members present the following day (Monday). After sometimes, the Chairman
felt that the drafted Bylaws still needed to be worked upon by some volunteers
to make the ratification process very smooth. A committee was formed with
around 15 volunteers that collected each comment, reviewed and rephrased proposed
amendments to the draft bylaws during most of this day. The whole set of amendments
were drafted and put down on paper to be voted on the next morning.
After lunch, we again scattered over the second round of the
workshops (see first day). And after the workshop, half of the participants
played a City game. These City Games were designed
for this conference to ensure that participants had an unique and thourough
glimpse of Berlin. Some of the city games were interrupted by heavy rain or
misunderstanding of the instructions, other groups got to finishing their
Monday, 1st of September, 2003
This days business was specifically the Bylaws ratification and Board
After some hours of intensive work by the volunteer committee done on the
previous day, a total of sixty (!) distinct amendments were ready, including
minor corrections and clarifications as well as very important issues concerning
the identity and ideology of the IHEYO (a special thanks to the secretary
of this committee - Osma Suominen of Finland).
The General Assembly accepted almost all of the amendments to the draft By
Laws, only having to discuss and vote on a few difficult or otherwise controversial
issues. Many big decisions such as the Main Identity of IHEYO, which was decided
to be based on the IHEU Amsterdam Declaration 2002, were agreed upon with
no opposing voices, while smaller issues sometimes had to be voted on. The
few controversies were mostly due to different expectations based on different
organizational cultures in the countries represented, and also the inability
of the committee to formulate some issues in a bullet-proof way, so that there
were no apparent flaws.
However, the difficult issues were noted down, and there will probably be
amendment proposals with better chances of resolving these mostly technical
issues presented to the next General Assembly. One big remaining issue was
the question of financial and legal responsibility of Executive Committee
officers, as neither the draft bylaws nor the committee had or could make
that part formulated in a satisfactory way. It was agreed that the relevant
articles should be written following closely the example of the IHEU bylaws,
but the specifics were left as a task for the new Executive Committee.
We didn't manage to finish all of the discussion and voting on the By Laws
on this day, some of it took place on Tuesday. Finally, the amended bylaws
were adopted with 34 votes in favour, no votes against, and one blank vote.
Also on the agenda for Monday was the election of the first IHEYO Executive
Committee, for which there were a total of nine candidates from eight different
countries. Each office was voted on separately, to make sure that each elected
officer have the support of the majority.
Gea Meijers (IHEYO, Young Humanists, the Netherlands) was elected the President,
Yemi Johnson (Nigerian Humanist Student Society, Nigeria) as Secretary-General,
Alina Mänttäri(Prometheus Camp, Finland) and Ramesh Kumar (Social
Development Foundation, India) as 1st and 2nd Vice President, respectively.
Marita Eriksen (Norwegian Humanist Assocation, Norway), Lars-Petter Helgestad
(also Norwegian Humanist Association, Norway), Frederik Dezutter(Union of
Vrijzinnige Verenigingen, Belgium), Wolfgang Huber (Austrian Freethinkers,
Austria) and Vincent Lloyd (, IHEYO, Common Sense, USA) were elected as regular
members. No Treasurer was elected as there were no candidates for that office,
so the whole Executive Committee has the responsibility for financial issues
until a Treasurer is appointed.
The assembly also had to decide on membership issues. No membership fees
were set for the time being until the next General Assembly (as the organization
is still being formed). It was decided that all those organizations that were
represented in the General Assembly and who submitted their official membership
application to the Executive Committee by February 1st, 2004, will be considered
full members and will have the right to vote at the next General Assembly
which will be taking place in Kampala, Uganda, in May/June 2004.
After lunch, participants were taken to visit local humanist youth projects
indifferent parts of Berlin, like humanist education, humanist youth clubs
or training camps, etc.
Dinner for this day was served at a party held for the participants by the
Juhus. Fun loving participants digged it out on the DANCING FLOOR
while some opted out to go to bed (after a hectic but historic and eventful
Tuesday, 2nd of September, 2003
This was the last day for the conference. After breakfast, the General Assembly
reconvened to adopt the bylaws. Yemi Johnson was called upon to say some things
concerning the next GA in Uganda as the coordinator after which the Chairman
formally winded up the General Assembly. Two groups, the Finnish Prometheus
Camp association and the Humanist Freethinker Havelland, present plans for
co-organising an international youth camp in 2004 and 2005.
After some group photographs, a general appreciation flower was presented
to the organiser of the Juhus (Antje Leuschke) for an excellent organization.
And the evaluation took place. After an evaluation-game, people filled in
their evaluation forms.
75 % of the participants handed in their evluation form. The overall evaluation
is very good. On elements of the programme, everything was fine in general
and the practical arrangements were very good. People were happy with the
procedure of the General Assembly. And when judging the conference in its
whole, on average people agreed this was one of the best conferences they
have attended so far (!), they enjoyed the conference very much and there
was enough humanist content. The conference was declared closed at quarter
to 12:00noon. But next year there will be a chance for every young humanist
to join again! With great enthusiasm the new IHEYO Executive Committee together
with many young humanists around the world will further invigorate humanism
at large and worldwide!
Reports collated by Yemi Ademowo Johnson with the support of Osma Suominen,
Hans Christian Nes, Marie Prott and Gea Meijers. Wolfgang Huber is the Internet