Youthspeak Vol 4, Issue 7, September 2007

YouthSpeak newsletter of IHEYO

Vol. 4 issue 7


In this Issue

The Headlines
IHEYO organises seminar on Inclusion in Youth Work
Muslim apostates claim freedom of religion
New Humanist Youth Organisation founded in Norway

In The Spotlight
Opinion - The Future of Youth Humanism

News from IHEYO
Second meeting 2007 General Assembly
Humanist Network News radio report on IHEYO's 2006 conference

News from Members
"Let us live in peace!": Ugandan Homosexuals launch new campaign

SDF offers an alternative to scavenger girls

Humanist Fun
Trial of Jesus challenged

Note from the chief editor

Dear all,

In the last issue of Youthspeak, I wrote you about IHEYO's renewed communication strategy and the central role our new website would play in it.

Well, I am happy to announce that the new website is up and running! You'll find that the biggest part of it is public, but that you need a username and password to take part in the discussions that go on in the forums and in the “comment” sections on some of the pages. Of course, all of you are invited to become a member of this web-based community.

You'll also find that your Youthspeak itself has changed. This is also part of the new communication strategy that has the website at its centre. We heard from many of you that the Youthspeak in its current form was too long, too dull to read, ... and were actually happy to agree.

From now on, in our newsletter you'll only find a short intro to the articles and a link that takes you to the full article on the website. Alternately, if you don't like to spend too much time on-line or prefer to read the Youthspeak as a single document, a full version will still be included in attachment to the mail. I, for one, hope that you will still register at to take part in the discussions that build further on your understanding of humanism.

Because that is what it's all about: to make our website into the portal where everyone can read Youthspeak and more, and where you yourself can contribute your own ideas on humanism at large to inform the world that there is a vibrant, productive and creative community of young humanists worldwide.



****************************Headlines **************************

IHEYO seminar on Equal Opportunities and Social Inclusion in Youth Work

Diversity and Interaction – these are the best words that can depict the international seminar on „Equal Opportunities and Social Inclusion in Humanist Youth Work” held in Ronse, Belgium, from July
29 to August 4 2007. The event coincided with the IHEYO General Assembly and a European Tolerance Campaign preparatory meeting.
The participants, mostly members of IHEYO's national member organisations or project partners, representing Belgium, Norway, Serbia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Poland, Germany, Nepal, Uganda and Kenya, had the opportunity to discuss, exchange ideas and share some best-practice models in different locations in the cities of Ghent and Ronse.
The training, combining both academic approaches, theoretical aspects and matter-of-fact issues has offered the youth workers a proper background to become more aware of what volunteerism implies and which methods and strategies
are at hand to deal with problems regarding the inclusion of minorities in youth work. At the same time, it has offered to opportunity to get in touch with experts, policy-makers and experienced youth workers around Belgium.
In the tradition of the late-evening surprises prepared by the young organisers of the seminar, the Barbecue afternoon had a special guest: IHEU President Mrs. Sonja Eggerickx, who appreciated the devotion and the enthusiasm of the participants to give a voice to humanism among young people in their own countries. The other surprise, a visit to a typical local brewery, turned into a walking adventure through the Belgian forests and countryside that nevertheless constituted the most entertaining outdoors activity of this seminar.
The intercultural setting, the international collaboration and the eagerness to share as many impressions as possible have constituted a workable recipe for increasing not only the knowledge, but also the skills of young organisers. It is, in fact, the recipe of perfecting the capacity of youth work in order to maximise the service to the youngsters it addresses.

Roxana Radu

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Muslim Apostates claim Freedom of Religion

This year's commemoration in Europe of the truculent assaults on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon on September 11th 2001 was marked, not so much by the relatively tedious remembrance of the victims they made, but by several manifestations impugning Islam.

Unmistakably, the aftermath of the “9/11 attacks” has seen a surge in religious rhetoric. The Bush administration defends its belligerent politics as a moral crusade to bring “God-given” democracy to the world, provoking opposition that is not seldom cast in the phraseology of Jihad. This growing appeal of religious interpretations of geo-politics, has, among other things, called forth inimical scrutiny of Islam, often set to prove its incompatibility with democracy and other allegedly Western values.
This, of course, brings to mind the much invoked hypothesis of the “clash of civilisations” as it was coined by Samuel Huntington. Proponents of this idea state that, the world being divided in some six cultural blocks among which opposition is unavoidable, clashes between the western and Muslim bloc are imminent. The assumptions of this theory, most notably the existence of something like monolithical cultural blocks, may have been trashed to the point of rendering it completely unsubstantial – see for instance Edward Said's authoritative “The Clash of Definitions- its simplicity seems to have propelled it to the status of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Thus, on September 11th this year, a host of organisations planned a manifestation against the “Islamisation of Europe” in Brussels. Taken at face-value, this initiative expresses a legitimate – although not necessarily urgent – concern. Nonetheless, it exemplifies the identity-, culture- or civilisation-based analyses in which more and more people seem to seek refuge. It equally illustrates the extreme prudence these monolithical interpretations call for. Unsurprising in this xenophobia-ridden continent, the initiative, taken by right-wing organisations and Christian integrists, was soon to be captured by outrightly racist or fascist organisations and parties – to the extent that Udo Ulfkotte, the original initiator, resigned from the idea and accepted the eventual banning of this march.

A second event, however, is much more deserving of our attention. On the same day, ex-Muslim organisations from several European countries united in The Hague (the Netherlands) to assist at the official launch of the Dutch Committee of ex-Muslims (only its support group has a website) and issued a joint statement to call for Tolerance and Freedom against Islamic oppression.
This launch followed months of commotion around the protagonist of this committee, Ehsan Jami who was molested following an interview in which he stated that, if judged by current standards, the Prophet would be convicted of crimes against humanity. Striking enough, the Dutch social-democratic party refused to back its member on the ground that his uttering was insulting and disrespectful towards Muslims. Although not being at the heart of the matter, this fact sparked of an enduring societal debate on freedom of religion, tolerance and the acceptance of religious rules (in a multicultural society), such as the Islamic rule interdicting apostasys.
Indeed, Islam does not allow stepping out of the religion. One who leaves the Umma is declared an outlaw and calls upon him capital punishment. To redress this unenviable condition, ex-Muslims in Great Britain, in Germany and other countries have set up groups of like-minded. These groups simultaneously seek to gain attention for their position and promote freedom of religion.
On their and other websites (another example is Apostates of Islam) discussions of the grounds on which they left Islam are oft-discussed. At least two jump to the eye. On the one hand, the inconsistencies to be found in the Quran and Hadith or in Islam in general, on the other hand, the prescriptions and restrictions that come with observance of this religion. Therefore, the outcome of their apostasy is not necessarily atheism but can just as well be another religion. This, however, can only strengthen their claim for freedom of religion. The forums that are linked to these website breathe the spirit of open discussion that must ensue from this freedom.

So, whereas the participants in the first event would swear by virulent attacks on the Islam as such, oft-times founded in reactionary Christianity and surrounded by stench of extreme right racism, the second event seems to highlight a much more promising and interesting evolution. Whilst there is a tendency to call for an Enlightenment in Islam, oft-times this is based on a superfluous observation of the tensions that result from the confrontation between several – to use the word – civilisations. The uninformed stressing of this conflict simply overlooks developments that are actually happening. Indeed, the confrontation of centuries-old systems of beliefs such as Islam and nowadays lifeworlds can only result in the revelation of discrepancies. The chasms that result from this confrontation seem to become breeding grounds for fertile, endogenous free-thinkers' movements, the breadth of which can be measured by several internet forums.

Joris Verschueren

* A free but abridged version of this article can be found here (external link). A free but abridged version in German can be found here (external link).

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New humanist youth organisation founded in Norway

Humanistisk Ungdom was founded on the 16th of August 2007, and is the youth (15-26) organisation of the Norwegian Humanist Association (NHA). The first year's focus will be on funding of the organisation and the recruitment of members. Looking at NHA-members in the relevant age group and unofficial polls, Humanistisk Ungdom has the possibility to become one of Norways largest youth organisations!

Some of Humanistisk Ungdoms main activities are
• Working for a belief-neutral state and education system.
• Focus on building strong local organisations (Norway is a geographically very diffused country).
• Provide a social frame for youth to explore their questions about being a humanist in both the large and small questions of life.
• Cooperate with other organisations (like IHEYO-members.)
• Arrange seminars on topics relevant to young humanists, and possibilities for actively engaging as a humanist.

The new organisation's board consists of nine young humanists in the range from 15 to 23 years. The oldest of them, Lars-Petter Helgestad, was elected as the first President of Humanistisk Ungdom, a position he will combine with the presidency of IHEYO.
Humanistisk Ungdom has committed to the same principles that are in the Amsterdam Declaration, and will also this autumn apply for membership in IHEYO.

Lars-Oskar Dale, Deputy Board Member of Humanistisk Ungdom
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********************In the Spotlight *********************

The Future of Youth Humanism

Generations by generations, the world continues in its state of flux. The children of today are the youths of tomorrow. The youths of today will definitely be the leaders in the nearest future. As the world continued to exhibit its dynamism, humanism being part of the order ought not to be left behind. It must be concerned about the future.

This concern could only provoke one question: what will become of organised humanism in the future, say next two decades?
There must be sufficient and even concrete evidence(s) for anybody to answer the question either affirmatively or otherwise. The aim of this article is to examine youth humanism with a view to answer the question. To preclude all confusion: 'youth humanism' can be defined as 'the ideals of humanism and its practice held by young persons between 18 and 32 years of age.'
Being the hub of any society, the youths are known to be full of energy and consummating zest, which could be used to promote any ideal they hold. While some call them 'the future leaders', others prefer 'leaders in embryo', whichever one chooses the fact remains that youths are expected either to wholly or partially take control of affairs of/in a society, community, business or group in the nearest future. Nations that refuse to provide qualitative and capacity building education for its teeming youth have been found to get into one trouble or another on their developmental path, for the manpower or the human resources that will make well-fashioned and thoughtfully trimmed policies workable are lacking. Need we recall the tragedy of the slave trade, the manhandling of able-bodied youngsters out of the African continent which bereft it of its necessary human resources to stress the importance of youth for any society? In a similar vein, for the global humanist community, the various groups of young humanists that uphold the promotion of youth humanism ideals are a most vital segment.

So, bearing in mind who the young/youth humanists are, not to mention the illustration of their importance, can we say they are presently well constituted within the global humanist movement? Resolutely, I will answer the question from both sides of my cheek: Yes and No.

Yes, they are. This answer is amply justified by the existence of some formidable youth humanist groups in the movement, the most popular of which is the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation (IHEYO) alongside the United States' Secular Students Alliance and the Center for Inquiry-On campus (previously known as Campus Free-thought Alliance).
The three have been giving collective and individual support to youth humanists worldwide, with both materials and funding. In the case of SSA and CFA, it must be mentioned that their primary focus is on America. As such, they received help with funding and mentoring from the adult members of the American Humanist Association and the Council for Secular Humanism.
But do the actions of the abovementioned groups allow for the answer, 'Yes, youth groups are flourishing and thus is the future of global humanism'? No!

The optimist arguments given so far eventually rely on a top-down approach to group building, rather than on a bottom-up view. The activities of the groups above have yielded results that cannot be easily overlooked. In most cases, what they offer is networking and linking opportunities. This is not a bad idea for it has helped to jump-start organised humanist in Africa, for example. But a global approach is bound to be fruitless if groups 'at the bottom', the national groups, fall short in assisting their youngsters. There seems to be a lacuna here. It is rather disheartening to note that some vibrant national groups do not have an organised youth section/arm.
This is not to say that all groups must create 'something out of nothing', but more can be done. A vibrant national group could, for example, adopt a vibrant youth humanist group within the same geographical entity for mentoring and funding support purposes. Unless national and regional groups are willing to support the growth of youth humanist groups within their domain, the action of global youth groups will remain nothing but a flash in the pan.
Youth groups must be allowed to understudy the organizational strategies of present organized humanist groups. As such, the presidents of IHEYO, SSA and CFI-On Campus, should be allowed to be part of the decision making board of the IHEU, AHA and CSH respectively. The same holds at the regional and national levels. For to be historically knowledgeable is to be able to synthesize the past with the present to make for a formidable future.
Saying so, my intention is not to disparage the laudable effort of any group, but to wake up those in charge to see to it that there is perpetual continuity in the humanist circuit. My point is that with strong youth humanist groups in all the countries, older humanists will be able to monitor and put them aright in the best way of doing things, or by simply learning from their mistakes for the sake of the future.
Surely, the future beckons on the adult humanists to assist in building virile youth humanist groups worldwide for the sake of generations yet unborn.

Yemi Johnson
This article is the shortened version of a chapter from the newly released book Humanism, Ethics and Africa, by 'Yemi Johnson Ademowo and Damilola Peter Adegoke. The book is published by: Savoir-Faire Consulting, Ibadan ( The book is on sale as an e-book for 10 $. To order, contact:
Softcopy: 128 pages ISBN: 978-8080-344 Price: $10

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**************************** News from IHEYO **************************


Second meeting 2007 General Assembly will be held on November 3d

As IHEYO did not meet the quorum at its last 2007 GA in July, following the requirements of our By Laws a second meeting has been called for. At the second meeting the quorum need not be met, but the agenda will be the same.
IHEYO’s second General Assembly will take place on November 3d, in the Hague (Den Haag), The Netherlands, from 13.00 to 17.00. Delegates are welcome at the following address: CoornhertCentrum, Erasmusplein 87, Den Haag.
Members and observers are invited. Full members who cannot delegate any of theire members, can give their vote and voting advice to another member. For further information, please contact IHEYO President Lars-Petter Helgestad at lars-petter.helgestad[at]

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Listen to the on-line radio report of the 2006 IHEYO Conference
‘Critical Thinking and Free Inquiry in Education’, India

The Institute for Humanist Studies recently released a one-hour podcast featuring interviews from the 2006 IHEYO conference. The show was guest hosted by the members of SOCH Nepal.
Please have a listen to HNN #22 on IHS's podcast page, or download the programme here

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****************************News from Members**************************


Ugandan Homosexuals Launch Media Campaign
(Press release)

In a landmark case, we, Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people assembled at the High Court of Uganda two months ago to reinforce our right to privacy, dignity, and property. There were no charges against us. We had done nothing wrong.

It is the government who had to answer for illegal behaviour of its agents by discriminating against homosexual and transgender people. Government officials raided the home of Victor Juliet Mukasa, an LGBT Human Rights Defender, in 2005, and illegally arresting a guest they found in her home. They forced their way into Victor’s home, stole many work documents, dragged her guest to Kireka police post, and forced the guest to strip naked in order to prove that she was a woman. The guest and Victor Juliet Mukasa were treated in a degrading and inhumane way. Many of us, as the Ugandan LGBTI community, have suffered similar injustice. We are here today to proclaim that these human rights violations are completely unacceptable. We have had enough of the abuse, neglect, and violence.
No person should be deprived of their constitutional rights; and homosexuals and transgender people are no exception. All people are equal under the law.
Therefore, we step into the public today to give a face to the many who are discriminated against every day in our country. Some of us have brought our faces before you for you to know us. But many of us come before you today with masks to represent the fact that you see homosexuals and transgender people every day without realising that it is what we are. We do not harm anyone. We are your doctor, your teacher, your best friend, your sister, maybe even your father or son.

As Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the umbrella organisation for Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex organisations, there are two urgent issues we would like you to consider. HIV/AIDS is a concern for all of us in this country. And yet many people ignorantly turn a blind eye as we die of HIV/AIDS because we as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people do not have proper access to protection, care, and treatment. We cannot continue to ignore the people in this country who are most at risk because of unfair discrimination and stigma. To successfully stop HIV/AIDS, we must treat every person with the dignity and attention they deserve. No one can justify taking away a person’s right to live, when protection and treatment should be readily available to all.
Secondly, as Sexual Minorities Uganda, we would like to publicly acknowledge the police for their leadership in reinforcing justice in this country by speaking out against hate crimes and discrimination of human beings because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Leaders in the police force have recently made great steps toward upholding the law in a just and fair manner, providing equal protection for all people against harm. Likewise, we also urge LDUs to help to end the persecution of minorities, particularly lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and intersex people, by acting in an upright and lawful manner in the course of their duties, respecting and protecting the dignity of all human beings.

Finally, to our communities, our schools, places of work, our families, we would like to end by passing on the wisdom of so many of our parents, who have known us and seen that we are born this way and are still their beloved children.
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SDF promotes alternatives to scavenging for Dalit community

The Social Development Fund (SDF), an Indian full member organisation of IHEYO, held a 2-day workshop in Mohammabad, Ghazipur on August 15th and 16th 2007. The explicitly humanist workshop addressed issues as inculcating the spirit of critical analysis in our life, humanism, rationalism and how we can use these in improving our life.
SDF has a long-standing tradition of bringing these humanist principles into practice. Its programmes, aimed at improving the life of the Dalit community, include a scholarship programme and the provision of computer skills and sewing education.
The workshop offered the opportunity to honour the outstanding performance of two of the girls who benefited from SDF's efforts. At the same time, a meeting was organised with the parents of the girls and other elders from the community, to instigate the other girls and boys in the community to work harder. The two exemplary girls were deeply moved as they received the bicycles that were promised to them.
V. B. Rawat, SDF's director, said upon handing out the prizes: "Both for Vibha, whose father wanted to stop her education but who was pursuaded by SDF to continue and for Deepmala (picture), who once demanded a jeans and shirt but felt deeply disappointed by her father's apprehension of what society would think, August 15th was a day of liberation. Using Ghazipur as a role model, we have decided to send the group from Ghazipur to tour other parts of the state every month or two and ask the community to leave the traditional occupation of manual scavenging and live a life of dignity. SDF is not only using human rights as an instrument, but also developing community leadership to fight against this greatest evil our system."
Although collecting money remains hard, SDF intends to have 15 girls benefiting from the scholarship programme this school year, and to allow another 40 to learn sewing free of charge.

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****************************Humanist Fun**************************

Historic Court Petition Challenges the Trial of Jesus
(from Kenya Law Reports)
By Michael Murungi
Assistant Editor, Kenya Law Reports.

Friends of Jesus v Tiberius, Emperor of Rome; Pontius Pilate; et al
Republic of Kenya Constitutional Petition No. 965 of 2007

A society of Christians has filed an unprecedented case in Kenya seeking a constitutional interpretation of the trial, sentencing and punishment or death of Jesus Christ. On 29th August, 2007, the Friends of Jesus, acting through Mr. Dola Indidis, a Christian, a lawyer and also the spokesman for the Kenyan Judiciary, filed a petition in the Constitutional Court in Nairobi against the States of Italy and Israel and a host of characters featured in biblical accounts of the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion i.e. the Emperor of Rome at the time, Tiberius; the Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate; the Jewish Chief Priest; Jewish Elders; Jewish Teachers of the Law and King Herod. The Kenya Civil Liberties Union has joined the proceedings as amicus curiae (friend of the court).

The Petitioners are challenging the mode of questioning, trial, sentencing and punishment of Jesus and are asking the court for a declaration that the proceedings before the Roman Courts in 42BC- 37AD were a nullity in law because “they did not conform to the rule at the material time”.

In a sworn affidavit, Mr. Indidis describes his fellowship of the Friends of Jesus as having bestowed upon itself “the sole responsibility and duty of preserving and protecting the image, authority, teachings and dignity” of Jesus Christ “according to the teachings of the New Testament”. The petition states that the purpose of the proceedings is to obtain a resolution of pertinent issue for Christendom and Jews: addressing the wrongs that were meted against Jesus particularly the legitimacy of the law under which he was tried and punished and the manner in which that law was applied.

The states of Italy and Israel have been named in the suit because, as the Petition states, upon the attainment of independence, the states incorporated the antecedent laws of the Roman Empire and the laws in force at the time of the crucifixion.

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IHEYO YouthSpeak, Edited:
Rosemary Wanjala, Gea Meijers, Joris Verschueren, Yemi Johnson and Lars-Petter Helgestad
Contact YouthSpeak at: youthspeak[at]
Articles do not necessarily reflect the official view of IHEYO
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