NOVEMBER 2013 NEWS UPDATE
We are pleased to offer support again this year to the Kent Muslim Welfare Association with their ‘Kent Peace and Unity Seminar’.
Ingrid will facilitate a workshop on ‘Human Rights & Migration’ at 10am – 12pm, Thursday 21st, November. Entry is free. There is plenty to see and to listen to.
Respecting Our Individual Identities while Working For Common Purpose
On the 3rd November, 2013 Chatham Unitarian Church and North Kent Humanists signed an agreement that means that Humanist meetings are now to take place at Hamond Hill. Locally, the two communities have already been happily working together and this is a further step in cooperation.
Many Unitarian communities also have a tradition of Humanism. Below is text found at http://www.uua.org/beliefs/welcome/humanism/index.shtml:
Humanism is a non-theist tradition that focuses on human potential and emphasizes personal responsibility for ethical behavior. Modern day Religious Humanism is largely derived from the writings of early American Unitarian Humanists, including Joseph Priestley, Thomas Jefferson, and John Haynes Holmes. Today, Humanism among the largest spiritual identity groups within Unitarian Universalism.
Rev. Sarah Oelberg describes Humanism as including the following values:
“Showing love to all humans is a worthy goal.
Immortality is found in the examples we set and the work we do.
We gain insight from many sources and all cultures, and there are many religious books and teachings that can instruct us about how to live.
We have the power within ourselves to realize the best we are capable of as human beings.
We are responsible for what we do and become; our lives are in our own hands.”
More information about Humanism from a Unitarian Universalist perspective is available in the pamphlet “The Faith of a Humanist,” and in the following UU World articles. UU World magazine is published in behalf of Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) congregations to help its readers build their faith and act on it more effectively in their personal lives, their congregations, their communities, and the world.
For even more resources and to connect with other Unitarian Universalist Humanists, please visit the website of the HUUmanists.
Not all Humanists would identify with Religious Humanism yet would not find fault that ‘Showing love to all humans is a worthy goal’. It is our conduct, not the origin of our conscience, which is the foundation of our venture. Surely, it is our gift to show how diverse people can work together for the good, not just of themselves, but for the wider community as a whole.
Meeting North Kent Humanists 5 November 2013
Human rights: is there a western bias to the Universal Declaration?
The idea was voiced that human rights are based on individual human needs whereas we also have to get attention for community needs. In answer to that Ingrid read the following passage from her book Introduction to Human Rights Law (Human Rights Office Reports no. 2, revised edition 2008):
“Even nowadays it is sometimes argued that the Universal Declaration as well as human rights texts that were made more recently are in fact instruments typical of western societies. It is true that the 56 member states of the United Nations in the time the Universal Declaration was adopted were western states in majority. However, all new member states recognised the Universal Declaration. Whether they actually put this into practice of course is a different matter. Yet no state will openly declare that the Universal Declaration cab be dismissed. This in fact shows that the declaration is truly universal in character. Those who still think human rights are solely a product of western ideology might consider the way the treaty against racial discrimination came into being: non-western states (often ex-colonies) were most emphatically stressing the need to draft a convention on the subject of racial discrimination. Further, it is governments not individuals who are the ones doubting the universal character of human rights.”
It was argued that there are different groups of rights and that rights should not be interpreted in such a far going way that they infringe on the rights of others; that there are not so much different rights as different interests. Ideally all rights should cover all the detailed wishes as well but in practice balancing with the rights and interests of others is needed.
It was argued that people always talk in terms of rights, which are claims, but there are also obligations and responsibilities. Ingrid reminded us that the distinction between western and eastern (or USA and USSR at the time) crept in via politics, it is not in the rights themselves.
There was some discussion about those countries that were looked at as not great upholders of human rights but were about to be members of the Human Rights Council. Rob offered the quote: ‘Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue’ - Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Whether seen from the human rights perspective, the humanist perspective, or the philosophical perspective, we were agreed on the fact that the starting point should be: WHAT ARE THE HUMAN NEEDS?
There may be cultural differences, but we are still all human. With each individual right you can go into ever further detail but if you look at what the basis is of a right, e.g. the right to food, then it is obvious that everybody needs food. What food is the next matter but nobody would deny there is a human need to have food. Important to consider is what is in the best interest of this individual in this specific case. It was argued that corporate bodies also have rights, but not human rights as they are not human beings.
Rob also made us aware of ‘Cultural Universals’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_universals
We concluded that no, there is no western bias in the Universal Declaration, because it is based on human needs. We were not sure that our understanding of a pluralistic democracy would be enough to solve all problems. But then what is the definition of democracy? It is important is, we agreed, to meet needs without anyone having to lose face. Human dignity is of the utmost importance. Wherever possible a win-win situation should be created.
Editor’s note: ‘I am grateful, as always, for the use of Ingrid’s notes for the account above’.
MIFA – Last Nights AGM (14/11/13)
The following were elected:
Chairman Faran Forghani
Secretary John Caruana
Treasurer/Membership Secretary Robin McQueen
Vice Chair Jabeen Sethi
Newsletter Editor Alan Trevethan
Co-opted Member (Chaplain to Medway Council) Rev. Gary Colville
Rev. Colville gave an excellent talk on Chaplaincy. He engaged us to share our experiences of chaplaincy, discussed the extent of the role and places covered (prisons, hospitals, work places), the extent to which this is covered (or where not the case) by a wider faith and/or tradition chaplains and the next steps to possibly take. More details will follow.
Hugh Hawkins will be leading the preparations for a Pilgrimage (to places of worship throughout Medway) for June 2014. It is thought to use this to publicise the work and ethos of MIFA and encourage even greater participation across all faiths and traditions – and of none. We discussed possible grants for this as a project.
The next MIFA Forum will be on 9th January and the 2nd Thursday of each month thereafter (except no meeting in August or December).
We expect next year’s Week of Prayer for World Peace to be 13th – 20th October.
The January meeting we intend to look at what MIFA can do for Climate Week which is 3rd – 9th March.
Potluck Buffet at KAMHA House
Meeting of North Kent Humanists 3rd December 2013
7:30pm – 9:30pm
Meet at 457 Canterbury Street, Gillingham, ME7 5LJ (where your local Humanist group started) for an informal gathering. You are welcome to bring something to share.
East Kent Humanists have provided some material ‘Who Owns Christmas?’ to consider.
In the New Year – Meeting 7th January 2014
Parking on New Road and Fort Pitt Hill is free after 7:00pm.