Humanist Youth Conference 2002
1-5, The Netherlands
has been the first International Humanist youth conference in
several years. It will be the start for further international
cooperation among youth and youth organizations. Besides this
main goal, this conference offered an enriching experience where
participants discussed and learned more about humanism, humanist
orgamizations in other countries, and about how to organize or
campaign for humanist youth activities. It was an opportunity
to meet people from other cultures, make new friends and start
new relations of information-sharing and cooperation.
In total 45 people participated in the Youth Conference from 16
countries. Most of the participants are linked with a humanist
organisation, as an active volunteer, member of a board, employee
or member. There were young humanists from humanist youth organizations
as well as from national humanist organizations that offer specific
activities for youth. Unfortunately, several youth from Global
South were unable to attend due to the refusal of Dutch Embassies
to grant visas despite the efforts IHEYO and the participants
undertook to obtain them.
Read below the full report!
You can also read a very
interesting report written by Paul Barry on the site
of Association of Irish Humanists (AIH).
1 July - Monday evening
Introduction at Youth Hostel Bunnik
After everyone had been checked in throughout the afternoon,
we all ate a meal together in the youth hostel's dining room.
Here the very first cross-cultural conversations really flourished,
as citizens of over 16 countries dined with one another.
Following dinner, we moved to a large room with chairs arranged
in a circle. Gea Meijers (Dutch) year-long intern at IHEU and
primary organizer of the conference, started the introduction
with Vincent Lloyd, international coordinator IHEYO and citizine
of the USA. Vincent then introduced the other organizers of the
Youth Conference:VB Rawat of Social Development Foundation in
India, Patricia van Wickeren of Jonge Humanisten Netherlands,
James Walker from the United States and month-long intern at IHEU,
and Hans Hoekzema, former IHEYO-coordinator for many years from
the Netherlands who was going to help us with the first evening.
In addition, the group was addressed by Babu Gogineni, Executive
Director of IHEU, who delighted in seeing the fifty gathered participants
but also reminded them to carry their enthusiasm back with them
to their homes.
Gea then explained the context of the conference and its objectives
to start future cooperation among each other. And she invited
everyone to tell their name, group affiliation, country, and what
hopes they had for the conference. This was a valuable overview
of our large diversity, both between countries and between different
aspects of humanism.
Discussion about humanism (Tuesday-afternoon
one of the workshops)
@copyright: Siggi Gunnarson
After this introduction each organizer took a set of 7-8 individuals
away for a more close-knit conversation. The point of the smaller
groups was to a) learn each other's names, and b) find out more
about the definition and meaning of humanism for the participants.
Some of the topics presented by the mediators were "Describe
a moment in your life when humanism had a great impact on you,"
or "What is the reason you became a humanist?" These
discussions were designed to facilitate the group members, despite
their national, cultural, and linguistic differences, to see the
similarities between them and the humanism that brought them to
Holland. Afterwards, each group presented its thoughts and conclusions
to all the others, and a tone of acceptance and openness was set
for the rest of the conference, which was adjourned until the
2 July - Tuesday morning
Laying the Groundwork, University of Humanist Studies
After breakfast and transport to the University for Humanistics
in Utrecht, presentations about IHEYO and the European Youth Programme
were made. These were well-received as sources of support and
funding that were made available to the participants for their
After this, the participants were split into their organizations,
given supplies, and told to prepare for a presentation of their
organization to everyone. When this was completed (and after a
coffee break, of course), the organizers put on a series of intercultural
games/discussions. There was "Can You Trade Values?"
where value statements are put on cards and each person must trade
these cards to get those values most dear to him. There was "Where
Do You Stand?" in which a statement is presented to the group,
and the room is divided into 'Agree' and 'Disagree.' Each person
must decide which side he/she belongs to with regards to the statement,
and then a dialogue between sides is started to explain the differing
viewpoints. Finally, there was an "Onion-layers/Be Creative"
game where the people could sing, dance and sit together as way
to learn about their different cultures.
2 July - Tuesday afternoon
Learning about each organization and its ideas,
University of Humanist Studies & Parnassos
After lunch, the first round of organization presentations began.
For a complete list of organizations present and their projects
summaries, please see the database-section which will be added
soon to this website. After the presentations there was time for
two workshops, a discussion group about the IHEYO-structure and
a group preparing resolutions. The first workshop was on conflict
in a multicultural society, led by VB Rawat. The starting point
for this workshop was the growing tension over the past years
between Hindus and Muslims in Pakistan and India. As an expert,
Rawat gave an introduction to this.
The second workshop was a discussion on where the boundaries
of humanism lie, and in what ways IHEYO should be bound by them.
This discussion at times got very heated, as well as very abstract,
as many of the issues confronting modern humanism were addressed.
In the end, questions concerning our treatment of other religions
(particularly Islam) was resolved by the position that any violation
of human rights or incitement to violate those rights was to be
struggled against with maximum effort, while tolerance and dialogue
were to be used otherwise. It was also determined that each case
must be decided on its own merits, because only by keeping specific
can you avoid the dangers of broad generalizations. The same ideas
held true for the stance on political ideologies, and as one member
remarked, "Ideologies don't violate rights, people do."
Clearly, with so many different national situations represented
at the discussion, this was a useful guideline that will allow
IHEYO to aid specific groups on specific issues without getting
muddled in rhetoric.
The group talking about the IHEYO formed a plan for its structure
of continental and national coordinators, later to be presented
to the whole group for further brainstorming. And the group preparing
resolutions sat together for the first time discussing youth involvement
in the humanist movement and also discussing education as an important
factor in the lives of youth. On Monday evening the organizers
had asked the whole group who wanted to prepare the resolutions
and some enthousiastic people volunteered. The resolutions
were presented on Friday in the plenary of the youth conference
and were aimed to be presented to the General Assembly of IHEU
and Humanist World Congress, asking for more priority to be given
to youth matters in the humanist movement.
After the workshops and small groups the organization presentations
continued until everyone went out to dinner in the city of Utrecht.
Later, the group split into two groups and went to Amsterdam,
seeing the sights of the city from the canals that transect it.
The group then returned to the hostel in Utrecht.
3 July - Wednesday morning
Presentations and trainings
University of Humanist Studies
Once again the University of Humanistics in Utrecht provided the setting
for the Youth Conference, and the morning was filled with more organization
presentations. After the coffee break, a set of trainings was offered
to the participants in one of three categories: Teambuilding and Conflict
Resolution, Humanist Youth Celebrations and European Funding and Resources
for Groups. These trainings were designed to be useful in generating
ideas about what an organization could do in the future and how to bring
that about successfully. The training about humanist youth celebrations
was specifically aimed at sharing each other forms of celebration and
to network with each other.
3 July - Wednesday afternoon
Brainstorming about future plan and group-foto
University of Humanist Studies
After lunch, the final presentations were given; all in all the scope
of the various youth organizations in attendance was amazing. From those
that worked with summer camps and youth activities to those that worked
for secularization or women's rights, the whole range of humanistic
activities was represented. Following this, we did a brainstorming session
around possible plans for the future of the international youth humanism
network. The list included: introduce humanism into public schools (as
an alternative to religious study), raise international awareness of
humanist youth, have a say in UN decisions affecting youth, organize
more conferences, both regional and international, make a website and/or
database with all member organizations' information, start an email
listserve devoted to IHEYO issues, help and inform start-up groups,
begin an international youth camp, develop connections between the University
of Humanistics and IHEYO, edit/write a newsletter, translate and distribute
resources/information, get a member on the IHEU Board. There were a
lot of great ideas, and some are already in the process of being implemented.
Finally, everyone loaded up to go to the World Humanist Congress in
Noordwijkerhout, where we arrived just in time for dinner and speeches.
But before that there were groupfoto's taken and not once or twice but
around ten camera's wanted to take a picture!
4 July - Thursday,
World Humanist Congress, first day
Congress-center Leeuwenhorst in Noordwijkerhout
This day was dedicated to making the youth presence felt at the IHEU
congress, as well as to foster communication and cooperation between
the IHEYO members and the larger humanist community. Participants attended
workshops addressed by prominent humanists, and could go on excursions
on the work of the Dutch humanist organization. In addition, the resolution
group met to work on writing the resolutions to be presented to the
World Congress on behalf of the IHEYO youth conference.
5 July - Friday morning,
Closing of the Youth Conference
After speeches by Levi Fragell (President of IHEU), Roy Brown (Vice
President of IHEU) and Matt Cherry (IHEU UN Representative) about the
challenges of the future for humanism in different parts of the world,
as well as the important role that youth plays in that future, discussion
was opened on the resolutions to be presented to the World Congress.
The first, a resolution on the relationship between IHEU and youth,
was passed with several minor adjustments (see the resolution-part for
a copy of this document). The second, on education and humanism, was
after a similar reworking. It must be said, however, that time restrictions
and a lack of process led to the belief by some participants that the
statements were invalid as representational documents. The process of
creation, discussion, adoption, and presentation of resolutions is something
to be worked on before future conferences.
After the discussion about resolutions we discussed again future plans
and the structure of IHEYO, but now in a more contcrete way than on
-a planning group for the next conference to be held in Germany next
year was formed,
-a plan for a camp next year was presented, and:
-a group of people for the communication-structure of the IHEYO-network
More plans were also mentioned in the evalutation forms that were filled
in by participants or were mentioned earlier.
At almost one o'clock the conference was brought officially to a close,
and all members were thanked for their enthusiasm and participation.
Goodbyes and information were exchanged with those leaving, while the
majority attended the World Congress for the rest of Friday and Saturday.
6 July -Saturday
Closure of the World Humanist Congress
The World Humanist Congress closed with accepting the renewed Amsterdam
declaration which give a contemporary view of the humanist stance and
its principles. The Amsterdam declaration was first accepted at the
founding congress of IHEU and after 50 years the ideas have not changed
that much whihc speaks for the strength of its ideas. Also as one of
the closing plenary speeches IHEYO could speak. Vincent Lloyd (USA,
IHEYO), Gea Meijers (Netherlands, intern IHEU), Gosia Minta (Poland,
Polish Humanist Association) and Andreas Palmqvist (Sweden, Humanisterna)
told about IHEYO, its activities, the youth conference and briefly the
resolutions. Due to a miscommunication the resolutions were not presented
at the Congress but only at the General Assembly were the one about
youth involvement in the humanist movement was well recieved.
Looking back the most important reasons making the conference a success,
were in the title - it was international, and it was humanist. The belief
in humanism, rational and secular in character, brought everyone together
within a common framework that allowed the reciprocal flow of ideas
and opinions. The international quality of the varied participants gave
many different viewpoints and created numerous opportunities for learning
and sharing across cultures.
Very unfortunate in this respect remains that the invited young humanists
from Africa could not obtain a visa regardless of the many efforts IHEU/IHEYO
and the participants themselves undertook.
For the participants who could come, the enthusiasm generated by this
convergence of identities gave the participants a sense of optimism
that the work of IHEYO would continue, and that they will be an integral
part in a worthwhile and powerful cause. We will meet again!
To Conference Resolutions
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