On August 26, 1952, the inaugural congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) was held in Amsterdam. The founding members, including the American Ethical Union (AEU), declared that “Humanism is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world’s great thinkers and creative artists and gave rise to science itself.” The first fundamental of modern Humanism in the founding document reads:
Humanism is ethical. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations. Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction.
We are part of that history. Today IHEU comprises over a hundred Humanist, Ethical Culture, rationalist, secular, freethought organizations in more than 40 countries. On Sunday, October 25, representatives of the IHEU present a platform bringing us up to date on its global members and activities. This summer I became acquainted with a member organization in Uganda: Kasese United Humanist Association (http://kuhauganda.webs.com/)
For several years, I have read with horror stories coming out of Uganda about waves of American missionaries who have turned “The Pearl of Africa” into a test case for right-wing, anti-gay Christian backlash. An article and video entitled “Gospel of Intolerance” by filmmaker Roger Ross Williams in The New York Times (1/22/13) reveals how money donated by American evangelicals helps to finance a violent anti-gay movement in Uganda. Another, full length, documentary, “Call Me Kuchu,” is a heart-wrenching and inspiring look into the lives of Ugandan gays and lesbians, called kuchus, whose lives are at risk every day.
But before you throw up your hands in despair, know this: There are Humanists in Uganda and they run a school, Kasese Humanist Primary School. I learned about the school when someone emailed me at Columbia University requesting books on humanism. As (bad) luck would have it, he was a fraud who tried to convince me to send him laptop computers and digital cameras. However, by comparing his post office box and phone numbers to those of the real humanist school, I connected with Bwambale M. Robert, School Project Director, and have am now sponsoring one of his students. Her name is Kichonjo Joan; she is a 12-year old orphan who lives with a guardian and is in fifth grade. On September 7, she will start the third term of Uganda’s academic year. I look forward to hearing from her.
If you, too, would like to support humanist education in Uganda and learn more about humanist organizations around the world, visit the website cited above and iheu.org. And be sure to attend the platform on Sunday, October 25!