Humanists around the world are celebrating World Humanist Day.
The annual event is an opportunity for individuals to learn about Humanism and for organisations to advance their work, to promote the values and ideas of Humanism, or simply to get together in community and celebrate! (Find out more about World Humanist Day.)
Celebrated on June 21, to coincide with the usual date of the Earth’s “northern” or June solstice, IHEU Member Organisations are celebrating World Humanist Day in a huge variety of ways!
Highlights from around the world
The Russian Humanist Society, Российское гуманистическое общество, is hosting a weekend conference on “Humanism in modern Russia”. They will be focusing on the challenges to Humanism in Russia in a round-table session, as well as hearing several speakers on issues such as political trends in Russia, totalitarianism and Humanism, and what it means to Humanist, cosmopolitan, and patriotic.
The weekend, starting Friday, also features dinner, social events, poetry and music, as well as a flower planting ceremony. For the Society, Valerii Kuvakin explained how a flower has become a local symbol of Humanism. "The chamomile flowers were chosen by chance. They are wonderful, democratic and look as a sun and light of reason."
Members of the Humanist Society of New Zealand have been celebrating around the June Solstice in Wellington for nearly 30 years, even before World Humanist Day took June 21 as its annual date. For the Society, Iain Middleton said, “The summer solstice in the northern hemisphere is the winter solstice in New Zealand so we enjoy meeting in a warm home where we can enjoy one another’s company with good food and conversation. We also use the occasion to mark the beginning of the Maori New Year (Matariki) signalled by the rising of the Pleiades star cluster.”
In the Netherlands, various humanist organisations are celebrating together under the theme “Dare to think, dare to do!” Network manager for the Humanist Alliance, Fanny de Groot explains, “For the first time, we are uniting the efforts of many humanist organisations in the Netherlands to celebrate World Humanist Day. Participating organisations organise events that are open to everybody who wants to learn more about Humanism and together we’re seeking media attention for the events on World Humanist Day and humanism. There is also a website [www.wereldhumanismedag.nl], enabling us, we hope, to reach even more people. All of this is coordinated by the Humanist Alliance, an alliance of 40+ humanist organisations in the Netherlands, ranging from voluntary organisations, to homes for the elderly, to a humanist broadcasting service.”
At the University of Humanistic Studies, Universiteit Voor Humanistiek, in Utrecht, students along with the youth section of the Dutch Humanist Association, Humanistisch Verbond, will hear Professor Maureen Sie on the subject “choices, reason and freewill in a time of neuro-reductionism”, neuro-reductionism” and there will be an award show for philosopher Henk Oosterling, who has won the Van Praag Prijs. All week there have been a huge range of events under the same World Humanist Day banner, including picnics, open days by departments of humanities and the Humanist Association, and the broadcaster HUMAN features World Humanist Day prominently.
The Freethinkers Association of Switzerland, Verein der FreidenkerInnen Schweiz, have a dedicated website for World Humanist Day at welthumanistentag.ch and will enjoy a talk by author Philip Moeller on “the bright side of Humanism” and Professor Jürg Frick on the psychology of happiness, followed by a party!
The Prometheus Society of Slovakia, Spoločnosť Prometheus, uses World Humanist Day to host its annual award ceremony. The Prometheus Society works to protect the rights and interests of the non-religious and defends the right to freedom of thought, religion or belief for everyone.
The British Humanist Association is celebrating through their own BHA Choir with an event called “One Life, a variety show for the non-religious in celebration for the one life we have”, featuring not only the choir’s musical talents, but guests including skeptic Chris French, Sunday Assembly host Sanderson Jones, comedian Iszi Lawrence, and Young Atheist’s Handbook author Alom Shaha.
The Danish Humanist Society, Humanistisk Samfund, have what sounds like a very pleasant evening planned. Sidsel Kjems said, “The concept is a potluck dinner at a beautiful country house in the countryside outside Copenhagen. We will meet around 6 pm and eat outside if the weather permits. Last year it was beautiful weather. As it starts to get dark we light a large bonfire. Around the bonfire we sing songs. One person is asked to prepare a speech – in Danish it´s called a ‘bonfire speech’.”
In Belgium the umbrella organisation deMens.nu has organised regional activities, including social events, and coordinating moral counsellors who distribute flowers in the homes for the elderly, and in hospitals. On alternating years since 1989 on 21 June the Flemish Belgian humanists have held either a conference with a well known humanist plenary speaker, or an award ceremony for achievements in Humanism.
DeMens.nu even has its own TV commerical specifically for World Humanist Day.
(The words under the escalating perentages indicate that the featured people are happy, then respected, then contented, and then, 100% human with a connotation of having full personhood or self-worth!)
An "Asia Humanism Conference" with the theme of "Breaking barriers" is being hosted by the Philippine Atheist and Agnostic Society (PATAS) and the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation (IHEYO). It's a three-day conference starting on World Humanist Day in Cebu, Philippines. The conference will tackle human rights issues affecting modern society and humanist approaches to alleviate appalling conditions "especially those of the marginalized and/or disadvantage youth in Asia."
Affiliate groups of Humanist Canada and the American Humanist Association (AHA) are holding numerous events locally. As one example, the AHA affiliate Baltimore Ethical Society are holding a Pizza Social and World Humanist Day talk with documentary filmmaker Matthew LaClair.
A day to think about the oneness of humanity
President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Sonja Eggerickx, said “It is a pleasure to see perhaps more Member Organisations than ever before celebrating World Humanist Day in a variety of ways across the planet.
“In the future we hope that in countries where many festival days are recognised by the state, that there is some consistency for World Humanist Day. The recent case in Germany, in which a student was denied exemption from school to celebrate this day, despite a law which generally allows a holiday for community festivals, shows that many countries still need either to explicitly recognise World Humanist Day, or to broaden their too-firm definitions on what constitutes a festival day!”
Many people connected to IHEU member organisations in India are currently struggling with the devastating floods in the country. There are World Humanist Day events in Mangalore and Goa, however Somu Rao for the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations reported that, “In north India rain has devastated the lives of many people. Thousands are currently missing.”
Eggerickx said, “Amid the great variety of World Humanist Day events we think of our members in India and elsewhere who for many reasons cannot enjoy this day in the same way. For some it is because of natural disaster, sometimes so devastating that the disaster changes your entire life. And at the other extreme, for some it is because they cannot even say that they are a humanist, for risk of encountering violent social prejudice, for whom even registering a Humanist organisation is a legal impossibility.
“This is why it is important that there is an international day for our worldwide community. We may be separated in our different countries, but Humanism celebrates both the individuality and the oneness of humanity. World Humanist Day is a chance to enjoy our own local community and to connect with others around the world.”