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International humanism

Watch Humanists International’s Gary McLelland describe the challenges humanists face internationally and relevant campaigning
The international humanist and ethical union is the worldwide umbrella body for non religious organisations such as atheists humanists secularists and a whole range of other like and ethical cultural organisations.
We have three basic areas of work: one is in campaigns, where we lead campaigns to promote humanist values around the world, the second is advocacy where we try to represent humanists at the United Nations and other international forums and thirdly in growth and development where we try to grow and nurture new humanist organisations in the developing world. I think the values of freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression are really important for society and especially for groups of people. Humanists around the world face a whole range of different challenges. The most stark challenge that’s faced by humanists around the world is the right to even exist.
In 13 countries around the world its a capital offence which means you can be killed simply for identifying as a non-religious or a humanist person. We also have a lot of challenges with our organisations, with their right to be able to be registered, hold meetings, because a lot of them are targeted for violence, state-sponsored violence and violence by vigilante groups around the world. So for many humanists around the world the risk of simply existing and growing your organisation can be a real life or death risk.
Then the political challenges that we see facing around the world in south Asia, even America and a whole range of places with the rise of nationalism and populism we see that the humanists and other vulnerable groups can often be the first in line for these violent attacks and persecution that they face. Apostasy is the idea that by leaving or rejecting a religion you’ve committed an offence and this deserves to be punished. Apostasy is one of many example of religious law where in many countries for example people under the Muslim faith who decide to leave that religion can be punished by the civil authorities as well as the religious authorities for simply choosing to change or express new beliefs.
This is something that’s completely against international human rights law, it’s something our international humanists and ethical union campaigns strongly against at the United Nations and around the world but these laws do exist and we’ve seen many examples of people who have been imprisoned, tortured and sadly been killed all for expressing a right to change or to hold new beliefs.
The very good foundational work that has been done in terms of human rights and equality policies around the world has been to promote the idea that people who have religion or belief or no belief or have a humanist belief they should all be treated equally before the law and what we’re starting to see is this idea being challenged in a way that it’s not been for over 50 years.
It’s very difficult to say what the future of the movement is, other than if we take the current situation with numbers of humanists in all countries around the world continue to grow, humanists continue to organise themselves and create new campaigns and activities at a higher rate than ever before so I think from an organisational point of view the future is very bright for humanists, but I am still very concerned that the threat to the fundamental idea of freedom of religion and belief continues to grow.

While humanists might be able to follow their approach to life and declare their beliefs relatively openly and freely in the UK, life can be very different for humanists around the globe. Chief Executive of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Gary McLelland, describes the challenges humanists and humanist organisations face internationally, and the relevant areas of campaigning.

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Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life, with Sandi Toksvig

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