HAI e-Newsletter September 2014

e-Newsletter September 2014
In this issue:

First Sunday Meeting Report –  3 August, 2014
 How Humanists Deal with Life Crises
 
Pat Coyle, Board Member and Company Secretary of the Humanist Association of Ireland, chaired a forum, where members and visitors discussed the topic.
 
The discussion focused on end-of-life issues and funeral rites in particular. The principal questions were how to ensure that you get the type of funeral/memorial/celebration you want and to what extent the sensibilities of others should be taken into account.
 
These are delicate matters. For many it would be a betrayal of their lives if they were to be given a religious ceremony. At the same time, some relatives and close friends might be upset and feel that it was not proper to have no religious element. This is particularly sensitive if – as is often the case — close family do not share your humanist outlook.
 
The importance of making your wishes known to close friends and family, as well as executors and solicitors was emphasised throughout. (This reflected elements of the discussion during last month’s meeting with Catherine McGuinness of the End of Life Forum.) Documents for enabling this process are at http://www.thinkahead.ie.  It is important not only to record your wishes but to discuss them.
 
A lot of discussion centred round attempts to resolve these matters and included the role of the celebrant (especially Humanist celebrants). Ways of allowing a religious element for those who require it were mentioned, from allowing a pause for reflection — which would allow private prayer — to inviting professional religious to participate. Attitudes vary with individuals and their circumstances. One way of ensuring that the ceremony reflects your life and wishes is to write a letter and instruct that it be read out at the ceremony.
 
Some intensely practical questions were raised about suitable venues for ceremonies. Some felt that a funeral director’s premises might be limiting, although on the whole funeral directors are very accommodating. (There may be greater difficulties outside Dublin.)
 
The availability of burial sites was potentially a serious problem. Most graveyards are operated by the county council and hence there appears to be a right to be buried there. In many cases a local church operates the graveyard — under the council — but it appears that some clergy assume rights that they don’t have. Good basic information is provided by http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/death/  HAI will undertake further research in this area and post information on its website.
 
Although most of the discussion was about end-of-life ceremonies, other ‘rites of passage’ were mentioned, from naming ceremonies to adult induction ceremonies (apparently organised on a municipal scale in Norway).
 
Above all, the ceremony should be dignified, life-enhancing and a celebration with honesty and integrity — all words used during the discussion, which was, as usual, thoughtful, and respectful of others’ views. A large proportion of the members and visitors contributed to the debate in a well-attended meeting.
 
Report by Alan Tuffery

First Sunday Meeting – September 7
The next First Sunday Meeting will take place on Sunday, 7th September from 4pm to 6pm at Buswell’s Hotel, Molesworth St, Dublin 2.
 
The title for this month’s meeting is Humanist Ceremonies.  Brian Whiteside, Director of Ceremonies, will speak about how humanist weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies have evolved in Ireland. This meeting will be particularly interesting for anyone who is planning a humanist ceremony.  
All are welcome to attend.

World Humanist Congress 2014 – Report by Ann James
 Picture credit: British Humanist Association
The IHEU World Congress takes place every three years*.  Excellent work was done by the British Humanist Association in organising the very successful event, and Andrew Copson and the team should be congratulated.
The 2014 Congress took place in Oxford, and it would have been hard for Oxford not to notice it, with banners hanging outside venues including the Town Hall, and venues with long queues of eager people going into sessions. The main venue was the old but beautiful Sheldonian Theatre, which was packed pretty much every session. Other locations were used for parallel sessions with a wide variety of speakers from near and far from the host country.
The theme of the Congress was Freedom of Expression. Several brave people spoke about their struggle to say openly and freely that they are Humanists or atheists, or that they are challenging religious or superstitious power. Oxford itself can claim a history of freethinking.  One such freethinker was the English Romantic poet and Oxford undergraduate, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was expelled from by university for expressing his thoughts in his pamphlet (1811) ‘The Necessity of Atheism’. Fortunately he didn’t get beaten or killed for his trouble.
Notable speakers included BHA President and science programme presenter, Jim Al-Khalili, philosopher AC Grayling and Richard Dawkins. Also, Peter Tatchell and Roy Brown (who will both be speaking at the All-Ireland Humanist Summer School on 30th and 31st August), Janet Radcliffe Richards (2011 HAI Darwin Day speaker), Richard Norman (2012 All-Ireland Humanist summer school speaker), P.Z. Myers, Zoe Williams (who included mention of the Congress in her Guardian column), Simon Singh, Greg Epstein (Harvard Humanist chaplain) and many more.
Professor Wole Soyinka was honoured as International Humanist Award of 2014 (in his absence due to illness) but an acceptance video was played in the venue. The text of acceptance speech can be found here:  http://iheu.org/wole-soyinkas-international-humanist-award-acceptance-speech-full-text/)
 Philip Pullman: Photo credit British Humanist Association
My own favourite speaker was Oxford writer Philip Pullman (author of His Dark Materials) who gave an erudite, entertaining and well-crafted speech on ‘The Cuckoo’s Nest’ about the value of literature, the freedom of the reader, adult or child, to draw what they want from a book, make it theirs – a private space. Pullman can use words such as “magic” and “spell” that freethinkers don’t have much truck with in daily life, and make them important for human imagination and creativity.
It is hard to do justice to such an event in a few words! We were not only engaged by the thought-provoking speakers: there was entertainment in the form of a splendid energetic dancing orchestra, Indian dancers, a comedy artist and Humanist choirs. An evening reception with private viewing in the Ashmolean museum was a pleasure, it was filled with noise from chatting Humanists! The special feeling created by meeting Humanists from around the world, sharing conversations, news, struggles and a few laughs for good measure was overwhelming!
One thing from the discussions and speeches this writer came away with is that Ireland remains internationally embarrassed by the ridiculous and shameful blasphemy legislation and the hope that efforts to have it repealed will continue.
Individuals are encouraged to join IHEU to help build and strengthen the only global Humanist organisation, and help to bring freedom of expression to those countries where it doesn’t exist and to develop and understanding of Humanist values worldwide.
More details and photos are available by clicking this link http://whc2014.org.uk/
*The 2017 World Congress will take place in Brazil, the next two general assemblies will be in The Philippines (2015) and Malta (2016)

World Humanist Congress 2014 – Report by Daphne Wynne
It was a great privilege to be one of the representatives from Ireland together with almost 1000 others from 64 countries at the World Humanist Congress in Oxford. We were made to feel extremely  welcome and the whole event was beautifully organised.
Most of our sessions were held in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, reputedly the oldest ‘concert hall’ in the UK. It was pointed out if we had been there when it was built, we could have been taken out and flogged, and red hot pokers forced through our tongues. .. because in those days in Oxford you were not allowed to be a student or academic if you were not a member of the Church of England.
One of the great benefits, apart from the privilege of hearing wonderful speakers, was that of meeting incredibly  interesting people from all over the world, and finding out the differences and similarities between Humanism in our countries.
We came away with the clear message that as Humanists we need to be strong advocates of human rights in our own countries. While rejecting violence, we need to strongly oppose the withholding of human rights and free speech from all people.
As Ann has given an excellent overview of the whole proceedings, here are some bullet point details  – of human interest – which struck me from other delegates as well as points from various speakers, which I hope you will find interesting!
– The Belgian government declared their King “unable to govern” and assumed his powers for one day so that the Abortion Bill could be signed in 1990. The King’s attempted veto of the legislation was unexpected, and this was the first time that this clause of the Constitution was evoked. The next day, he was declared “able to govern” once again!
– The Norwegians hold  civil confirmation ceremonies every year for 15 year olds. They call it ‘confirmation’ as people understand this term. The young people go to special evening classes on 9-20 evenings prior to the ceremony, and there are expected to be around 10,000 this year, typically in May and June.
– The oppression of women was an important theme throughout the conference. In many societies, young girls are the most vulnerable and oppressed group, and are denied education, freedom, and any decision-making role in society. In many countries, women are defined only in terms of their relationships with men – as wives, daughters and sisters of men. They are not perceived as individuals in their own right.
– Is it an impossible task to shift hate? Nobody is born hating, only loving. Hate is taught.
– In Africa, whoever can provide food and other basic necessities gains support.  Both fundamentalist Christians and other religions take full advantage of this.
– Britain is the only country in the world where clerics have an automatic right to sit in the legislature.
– Philip Pullman said  ‘We all need delight, delight is vital to the one life we have.”
It was a wonderful Congress, I hope this has given a small, if disjointed, flavour.

IHEU General Assembly
The two-day annual General Assembly (GA) took place either side of the World Congress. This year the Congress was held in Oxford and many individual IHEU members attended the GA as observers. 
IHEU is a relatively small organisation considering the work it does, and, more importantly, what it hopes to do. It was fantastic to see so many countries represented here and at the Congress; peoples who struggle against odds we can only wish never to have to fight against!
There were the usual general agenda items, minutes of previous year, finance and so on. A successful initiative, the Freedom of Expression Report (freethoughtreport.com) from 2012 which had been welcomed by the UK Government was discussed :
and updated for 2013.
The attempt to twin Member Organisations hadn’t taken off but it was agreed it had merit so may be relaunched in due course. The Board requested that MOs give more than one contact to make sure word gets out to MOs as widely as possible to develop an truly international outlook.
David Pollock’s project to consolidate the IHEU’s policies was discussed. Many policies have been introduced over the 60 years of the IHEU’s existence, and David has been attempting to categorise and summarise them. Topics include education; scientific and cultural endeavour;  human development and the environment; human rights and non-discrimination; the human body and beginning and end of life; governance;secularism; rule of law; peace and international conflict.  This is an ongoing project.
The activities of the past year included the first youth event which took place in Utrecht, and was organised by the IHEU’s youth organisation (IHEYO). It would be good if some young Irish people could attend next year’s event. 
Nine new member organisations joined over the year and many national Humanist groups sent in activity reports to share the variety of work being done.
 
The Freedom of Thought – Oxford Declaration (http://iheu.org/oxford-declaration-on-freedom-of-thought-and-expression/) which had been accepted at Congress was ratified by the General Assembly. 
Anyone with further interest in the IHEU can get more information on the website http://iheu.org/
Report by Ann James

Chaplaincy News
There has been a very enthusiastic response from the members at large to the plan for a remembrance event at the Sunday meeting of January 2015. Members are invited to send the names of those who have died in the recent past to Nic Johnson: [email protected]  Send also written material which can be read aloud. All members are, of course, invited to attend and comment, and will be free to express other losses they may have experienced.
Our Chaplain in Cork, Norma McEllligott, has been busy.  She has worked with a terminally ill patient who had phoned her from the hospice requesting a visit and asking her to do his funeral, which she did. This has led to her meeting the hospice chaplain to say that she is available as needed.   In addition to all this, she is visiting and spending time with a very ill lady.  In addition, we will shortly approach University College, Cork for a request to register a Humanist Chaplain.
Ann James, our first Humanist  Chaplain has a new title. She is now Ann James, Humanist Chaplain,  Emerita.
Report by Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy

Contributions from Members
If you have constructive comments or feedback on this e-Newsletter, Board meetings, the organisation in general, and/or are able to contribute to the goals of the HAI in any way, please let us know.
And if you have news items or links you would like to share with other HAI members, please send them for possible inclusion in the e-Newsletter by the 27th of the month.
We would very much welcome your contributions!
The email address is [email protected]

News Bytes
From the Irish Times
Ivana Bacik on  the need for new legislation on abortion
Criticism of the treatment of asylum seekers through the system of direct provision” 
From the Guardian
Zoe Williams writes about the World Humanist Congress in A Call to Arms!
Do humanists make humanity sacred? Andrew Brown wonders if humanism is religion without a church.
From The Journal.ie
Kirsten Roberts says  the killing and imprisonment of journalists should be a matter of great concern to us all.

HAI 21st Celebration Conference 11th & 12th October 
The HAI is celebrating its 21st Birthday with a conference on primary education, asking if the system is fit for the 21st century.
There is no fee for the conference, but booking is essential as places are limited.
The programme and booking form are available now on the HAI website

New Humanist Stand at GPO – can you help?
Let’s make HAI  history at the GPO on Saturday 20th September 2014!
 
This will be the first time for a Humanist stand at the GPO – please come along and support this historic occasion.
We need a rota of volunteers to (hu)man the stand on every third Saturday in the year – from noon to 2pm.
 
With just 12 Saturdays to cover, we need 4 to 6 willing humanists who will commit to coming along 2 or 3 times during the year. 
Please send your details to [email protected]  Put your footprint on a secular path for Ireland!

Radio Presenter Wanted!
HAI member Chris Morris has been presenting a weekly programme about humanism on NEARfm  – a community radio station based in Coolock.   Chris would like to hear from any members who would like to get involved in presenting this programme – either regularly or occasionally.  He would especially welcome female volunteers, but all volunteers would be welcome.  Basic training can be arranged.
If you are interested, please contact Chris at [email protected], or phone 086 2641904

Local Humanist Groups
Síle Headen is interested in setting up a new local Humanist group for members in Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare.  If you are interested, please get in touch with Síle at 
[email protected] or 087 7704946.
Ann Brennan is interested in setting up a new group for members living in the South-East region.  Her contact details are [email protected] or 086 0680444.
Isolde Carmody would like to gauge interest in setting up a North-West local group, covering Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon.  She would be happy to coordinate with others if there is interest.  Her contact details are [email protected] or 086 8820445.
A group of people interested in setting up a new local Humanist group in Cork have met twice recently.  Details of further meetings are on http://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.
North Coast Humanists meet every second Tuesday of the month at 6. 30 pm in the foyer of Lodge Hotel, Coleraine. New faces are welcome. For more information, contact: [email protected]  or 07818036404.
The Mid-West Humanists group includes people from Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary who meet on the third Wednesday of each month at 20:00 in Limerick – the Absolute Hotel, Sir Harrys Mall, Limerick. Meeting notice at www.midwesthumanists.com. For more information contact Peter O’Hara on 086 8155102 or email [email protected].
Serving Humanists in Galway and surrounding areas, Humanists West meet in Galway city on the last Sunday of each month. The meetings start at 12 noon at the OSLO Gastro Bar- Micro Brewery, 226 Upper Salthill.. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.

Appeal from Sonja Eggerickx, President of the IHEU
The following appeal was sent to member organisations from the President of the IHEU, Sonja Eggerickx:
I was gobsmacked by World Humanist Congress. It was incredible to share some of the inspiring work done by humanists in some of the most dangerous contexts imaginable.
Moreover, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) was able to deliver training, workshops and forge new relationships with some of the youngest humanist member organizations in the world. And, I think, the Congress has refreshed, rallied, and inspired everyone who was there.
Now you can help to help keep this energy alive by joining as a Supporter or donating to IHEU today.
IHEU president Sonja Eggerickx with Aggie Ojera and Gulalai IsmailFor me it was most amazing hearing from activists like Aggie Ojera from Uganda, who works with women left stranded on internal refugee camps, their lives constrained by a combination of war, patriarchal dispossession, and a religious culture that, in the face of all this, says: “Just wait and pray!”
And who can forget our International Humanist Award-winner Gulalai Ismail, promoting women’s rights and girl’s education in some of the most dangerous parts of Pakistan, refusing to give up in the face of violent threats and intimidation from Taliban militants.
IHEU works to grow the humanist movement around the world, not to a template, but by engaging with our increasingly activist and multifaceted global community, who face many different challenges. Human rights, democracy, freedom, autonomy, education, secularism, these are the humanist values we are working so hard to promote and – crucially – to enact.
Now is the time!
By joining the International Humanist and Ethical Union as a Supporter, or making a donation, and if you can commit to a monthly or annual gift, you will be helping to make the legacy of World Humanist Congress truly long-lasting.
Help us to help humanists globally to uplift their community and achieve amazing new things.
Your support may be the boost that enables the next International Humanist Award-winner to achieve the goals they have now set themselves because of this Congress!
Please, if you are able, join us a Supporter, or make a donation to IHEU today.
Thank you for your attention.
Most sincerely,
Sonja Eggerickx
President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union
PS Even if you can’t support us today, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates. You can also help by sharing the links with others.
And there are always volunteering possibilities!
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization incorporated in New York, USA. And registered in England, number FC020642.

Living Wills
Advanced Healthcare Directive
Advance directives are written legal documents by which patients express their wishes about the kind of health care they want to receive in the event they become unable to make their own treatment decisions. This usually means if he or she is physically or mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to makes these desires known. They are designed to allow competent patients the opportunity to guide future health care decisions. Advance directives include living wills and medical powers of attorney, sometimes called durable powers of attorney. It takes the decision away from family members, thus reducing their stress at a vulnerable time.
More information and downloads are available from http://www.worldrtd.net/organization/living-wills-trust-lwt or contact Daphne Wynne, 01 2802879, for further information.

Humanist Association of Ireland  •  34B Royal Terrace West  •  Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Ireland
http://humanism.ie