Hosted by International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) member organization, the British Humanist Association, the World Humanist Congress 2014 is now underway in Oxford, UK. The theme is “Freedom of Thought and Expression” and the IHEU World Humanist Congress will run from 8-10 August 2014.
The renowned university city of Oxford will see over 1000 atheist, humanist and other non-religious delegates taking part, including human rights and in particular freedom of expression activists and thinkers, and representing numerous IHEU member organizations and other groups. This is the first time the Congress is being held in the United Kingdom since 1978 and will be the biggest World Humanist Congress in our history.
We will be celebrating freedom of thought and expression, hear how these rights are being threatened, meet some of their inspirational defenders and explore how the humanist movement can contribute to their defence.
The Congress includes delegates from many of the 13 countries which still carry a death penalty for apostasy and countries where the rights and the freedoms of the non-religious are increasingly under threat globally from religious violence and state persecution.
With a programme of over 40 events with over 70 speakers, the Congress will touch upon subjects as diverse as history, politics, international affairs, science and philosophy.
- Award winning writer and activist Taslima Nasrin, known for her powerful writings on women’s oppression and her unflinching criticism of religion will address audiences on her forced exile and numerous fatwas calling for her death.
- Bengali blogger Asif Mohiuddin, who will give his first public interview after being released from prison in Bangladesh. Attacked and brutally stabbed in the back, shoulder, and chest by a group of radical religious fundamentalists affiliated to Al-Qaeda because of his criticism of Islam, and Sharia law, there were calls for him and others to be prosecuted for blasphemy and a march of one million madrassa students demanded the death penalty for them all.
- Pakistani human rights defender Gululai Ismail who in running her project Aware Girls in North West Pakistan challenging patriarchy and religious extremism, has been threatened, as have her family. It was her organisation that Malala Yousafza was working for when she was shot by the Taliban.
- Nigerian human rights advocate Leo Igwe will talk about his exposure of the violence and child abandonment and death that can result from accusations of witchcraft which brought him into conflict with high-profile witchcraft believers, whose followers broke up a meeting he was addressing, beat him up and robbed him. His campaigns for human rights have led to him several times being arrested in Nigeria.
- Physicist, broadcaster and BHA President Jim Al-Khalili joins a fearless line up of commentators including Maajid Nawaz, Alom Shaha, Maryam Namazie and Kenan Malik on the question of whether current focus on Islam and freedom is bigoted or justified.
The Congress keynote speakers bring with them a wide breadth of expertise in different fields. They are: Nobel prize winner playwright, poet and human rights defender, Wole Soyinka; United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt and award winning author, Phillip Pullman.
Bob Churchill of IHEU will discuss how IHEU members and others can contribute to the Freedom of Thought report, which encapsulates many of the issues and concerns of humanists from around the world under the theme of ‘freedom of thought and expression’.
IHEU Grants including significant funds fromm the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office have facilitated numerous delegates who otherwise would not have been able to attend, and will have their own stories to tell from all over the world in their fight for freedom of expression and the difficult and at times extremely dangerous conditions under which they work.