June 2020

Free Mubarak Bala

Mubarak Bala is a leading Humanist activist in Nigeria, arrested last April for alleged criticism of religion.  In 2014 he was detained in a psychiatric ward on the grounds that he was an atheist!!!

Humanists International believes “if Mubarak were to be charged with ‘blasphemy’ and he is found guilty, he could face the death penalty”.

We can contribute to the legal defence of Mubarak at:

George Broadhead writes

Tolerance of different people’s views, beliefs and practices that don’t intrude on the freedom of others is an essential part of a civilised society. In this country this has been largely achieved over many years with laws outlawing discrimination of various sorts as well as a change in cultural outlook. Other counties are not so progressive as revealed in a report Humanists At Risk: Action Report 2020, funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and published by Humanists International.

Local humanists have been very concerned by the report which shows that atheists and  humanists are facing discrimination and persecution in quite a few countries because of their beliefs and values.

Non-religious people in Colombia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka are often ostracised, and some women are forced into marriages. Evidence is growing that humanist and atheist activists are being targeted on the basis of their rejection of a majority religion or their promotion of human rights, democratic values and critical thinking. 

A range of tactics is used against humanists, atheists and other non-religious people, including the criminalisation of blasphemy and apostasy, impunity for attacks, social isolation and discrimination. One Malaysian respondent said: “Humanists and non-religious people are regularly attacked by zealous Muslims.” Another said people who expressed a lack of religious belief were “shunned and frowned upon”. An issue of great concern was “the practice of forced conversions in Pakistan. Girls and women from minority belief groups are often forced to marry into Muslim families.” 

This report shines a light on the targeted violence, continued harassment and social discrimination faced by humanists in many countries and opens the door to conversations on how best to protect humanists worldwide. What is clear is that all laws and policies which criminalise blasphemy should be repealed. 

Our local group will be putting pressure on the Government to use what opportunities it has to persuade other governments to honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which they have all subscribed 

George Broadhead 

Faith Schools – the campaign continues

In June 2014, President Obama visited Eniskillen in Northern Ireland and seemed to voice bewilderment and opposition at faith schools there:

“If towns remain divided – if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden – that too encourages division and discourages cooperation.”

Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists held a Public Mt in March 2019, to consider the campaign against Faith Schools.  Dr Ruth Wareham, Humanists UK Campaigns Manager, spoke and asked this question: ‘Are Faith Schools dividing society?’

The Government is encouraging a growth in the number of Faith Schools.  We need to continue to ask about the place of priests, vicars and the church in our schools.

The National Secular Society’s Alastair Lichten, is organising a speaking tour setting out the case against Faith schools and perhaps we will greet him at a meeting early in 2021.  To introduce himself, Alastair hopes to pop in to our Zoom gathering on Wednesday 1st July.  You can get a link to this and all our Zoom Meetings by sending an email, expressing interest, to:

Two C & W Humanist Stalwarts are leaving

Alison and Phil Rowland have been long standing, humanist activists, holding down many jobs within our C & W Humanists group and now, they are moving up north.  

Many of you have been involved in the group and known Phil and Alison, longer than I have.  Their contribution to humanism continues to be valuable, after all it’s based on decades of experience and keen and (where necessary) combative minds.  We will be sad to say farewell to the Rowlands but I have been assured by Phil that they will keep an eye on our work and continue to be critical friends, which is welcomed.

Phil and Alison have provided great support to me and I’d like to thank them for always being there, prepared to offer advice and an opinion whenever they’ve been sought.

At a Zoom Executive Mt last week, we asked Adrian Davis and Brian Goredema-Braid to act as temporary Executive members and they agreed to. Some of you will know of the work that Adrian is doing, hosting our Zoom Mts and the work that Brian is doing, putting together quizzes for those mts.

We had to find a replacement for Phil as Treasurer for the group and I am pleased to tell you that Adrian Davis has agreed to do the job, at least temporarily, until our next AGM.

Unfortunately, the group’s secretary – Panos, is unable to continue in the role.  It has been great to have Panos with us and he helped with some Web Page work but, as a young teacher, he is finding the demands of the job, time consuming and needing all his time.  Thanks Panos and the best of luck to you and Harriet.

We now have to find a new  group secretary.  If you might be interested, you could talk to Andrew or I and we’ll tell you (honestly) what the role might involve.  

Three main strands, that I can think of,  are:

1   preparing for actual (as opposed to virtual) C & W Humanists meetings

2   sending out a group email (which the Chairman writes)

3   assisting with Zoom gatherings.

We also have to find someone willing to manage our website and Twitter account.

 Alison and Mo, have been two active female members of our group.  Audrey, Jane, Heather and others also contribute significantly BUT – speaking personally now – it would be a massive boost, should one of our female contacts/members, volunteer to be secretary.  We are, at present, a largely male Exec, and we long for gender balance.  Can you help?

We hope that the easing of lockdown will enable us to hold an AGM in September, that’s the month set down in our constitution.

 Best wishes and stay safe.

 Bob Jelley