Celebration of World Humanist Day-2016soch
Every year SOCH Nepal organizes different programs to celebrate World Humanist Day and raise awareness surrounding superstitions, improper cultural practices and religious dogma. These programs include rallies, discussion programs, awareness programs, blood donations and waste management programs. Following the tradition, this year was no different and on June 212016, SOCH Nepal organized a program where experts, academician, writers, journalists and youth from different colleges were invited to attend a program focusing on raising awareness about humanism and its implication in practical life. The program was held in the hall of Media International with about 50 participants.
The program began with an informal session whereby participants shared their personal views about SOCH Nepal and its activities in the community. During this session, SOCH youth defined humanism to be serving humanity to needy people. SOCH Nepal was recognized and thanked by SOCH youth for encouraging young people to think critically, rationally, and scientifically.
Hema Tamang, a SOCH intern, shared her appreciation for the opportunity given to her by SOCH youth that has allowed her to be involved in and organize regular SOCH programs. More specifically, she shared her experience about the opportunity working as a volunteer at the 3rd World Conference on Untouchability where she was able to develop a greater understanding of untouchability and its impact on people’s wellbeing. She expressed her gratitude towards SOCH Nepal for providing her with the opportunity to assist in organizing major events, allowing her greater understanding particularly in regards to the value of teamwork, coordination, co-operation and time management. She explained, “Involvement in SOCH programs has taught me how to be a critical thinker and a scientific thinker”. She further explains, “Now I am keen to understand the social issues that prevent people and families from living a dignified life. Before my involvement in SOCH, I did not have any interest in such issues.”
The program then continued with a speech from Loksari Kuwar, a journalist and the Secretary of Kuriti Antya Samaj (KAS). Kuwaroutlined the initiation of SOCH Nepal whereby kurities (improper cultural practices) and superstitions are to be eliminated. She also shared a short video that demonstrated ideas against superstition in the case of Siddha Baba. This was a joint production of SOCH Nepal and Koseli news. Siddha Baba claimed that his “power” made it possible for him to stay inside an airtight box without oxygen for nine days however scientifically, this is impossible. She also explained that the open challenge of SOCH Nepal to stay nine minutes inside the box prepared by us. She said, National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) also denied such possibilities. She further explained SOCH executive director; Uttam Niraula also challenged to stay nine minutes inside a box can give all the property of SOCH.
A veteran leader, Mr. Balkrishna Neva shared his appreciation for the program that celebrated Wolrd Humanist Day andencourage conversations surrounding the issues of superstitions, kurities (culture-based violences) and religious fundamentalism. He requested all the participants to be critical before accepting anything. Neva believes that religious dogmas, superstitions, and improper cultural practices are preventing human beings from living a dignified life. He shared an example of Jaganathpuri where people would sacrifice their life by laying under the wheel of car or cart with the belief that they would reach heaven after death. He explained that, “this is not the only example, there are many superstitions which are taking lives of many innocent people.”
Following the informal discussions as discussed previous, the formal program was commenced. Bimala Khadka, Vice president of SOCH Nepal officially opened the program where she briefly explained the objective of gathering on the occasion of World Humanist Day and requested all participants to be critical and rational in regular life.
Mr. Ramesh Poudyal, the founder President of SOCH Nepal then gave a short presentation where he shared his views that the different wars in the world are a result of religious dogmas. He explained how many innocent people are brainwashed and forced to die due to religious dogmas. He further explained that more people have died as a result of religion-related wars than in first and Second World War. Poudyal believes that to live a happy life and achieve economic prosperity, people should leave the dark side of religion and culture. Finally, he condemned the massacre of Afghanistan the day before the humanist day where Nepali were killed.
Mr. Damodar Pudasaini, a senior writer, offered some though provoking questions during his presentation. He asked participants, “who is the creator of the universe?” One-third of participants said God, one third were neutral and the other third believed that the world has its own existence. Pudasaini explained that as a rational creature we must be clear about who we are, who the creator of the universe is and where we are from. We must know how the universe exists and what the duties and responsibilities are as a rational creature according to Pudasaini.
Additionally, he defined humanism as a human-centric philosophy, a philosophy based on science and logic. This philosophy is also based on the idea that the world has its own existence and does not have a creator. Pudasaini asked everyone to live a life without worrying about heaven and hell and explained that every society has its own culture and traditions where every human being must recognise their capacity to take good things. When speaking about fatalism, he explained that all successful people are hardworking people not loving to one God.
He briefly explained about the history of the celebrations on World Humanist Day around the world. American Humanist Association initiated the concept of World Humanist Day in the 1980s. The first World Humanist Day was celebrated in the Netherlands with dancing and singing. Germany, Japan and many other countries quickly followed the tradition of World Humanist Day, including Nepal. Nepal celebrates World Humanist Day to raise awareness about humanism and scientific thinking amongst young people and encourage them to think critically and logically.
Sanjay Khadka, Executive Committee member of SOCH Nepal gave an influential speech about scientific thinking, explaining that humanism is often understood as an anti-religion movement. He explained further that humanism is not fighting against religion or culture and is rather against ideas that kill truth, science and a dignified life. Humanists expose people or groups who claim to be a messenger of God. He believes that the main aim behind messengers of God is to spread superstitions and misconception for personal greed. He highlighted that humanists are not against the right to believe as the humanist movement promotes this a fundamental human right. However humanism encourages people to consider the protection of individual rights as respecting the rights of others too. Khadka differentiated between the meaning of humanity and humanism in his speech and encouraged all youth at the program to believe in work not in fortune.
Furthermore, Khadka explained the creation of the Universe by Bhagwan (God) to be true. It is true in the sense of the word Bhagwan. Bhagwan is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Bhag’ and ‘wan’. Bhag means the female reproductive organ and wan is male reproductive organ. When Bhag and wan are together there will be reproduction that contributes to the creation of the Universe.
Khadka further explained that humanists believe in magic and not miracles. He gave an example of the challenge for humanists and SOCH Nepal when considering God’s men and Babas who often claimed to have supernatural power. Humanists from all over the world are ready to give millions of dollars to the person who can perform magic on live television. This year SOCH Nepal and Koseli news jointly challenged Siddha Baba to sit inside a box prepared by us for nine minutes however Baba dis not comeforward therefore suggesting flaws in his claims to have supernatural power.
The World Humanist Day celebration concluded with a live art demonstration prepared by Acchut (artist). This artwork clearly defined a society full of positive and negative and encouraged participants to work with the good and alleviate evil. Following the art demonstration, there was a photo session where all participants and SOCH members were able to create memories together.
Discrimination based caste, improper cultural practices, religious dogmas and superstitious belief should all be eradicated from society and replaced with unity, love, art, science, philosophy, respect, friendship and brotherhood to create happiness and protection.
Apsara Karki, the Chief Secretary of SOCH Nepal, formally ended the program with a closing speech that summarized the entire program and encouraged her to reiterate the importance of always considering and identifying scientific reasons. She shared experiences such as people claiming marks on their skin as witch bites rather than physical reasons such as bruising, insect bites or weak veins. She also explained that having blind faith often leads to verbal abuse or physical torture that is often witnessed in witchcraft practices.
She also gave an example of the thought that sleeping under a pipal tree, a tree that provides maximum oxygen, can kill a person if they sleep directly under it during the night. This is not true and she explained that during the night, the pipal tree releases a lot of carbon dioxide that often causes people have breathing difficulties and sometimes due to lack of oxygen in the brain, people can faint or die.
Karki gave thanks to all speakers and the SOCH team for their contribution in creating a successful program. She also thanked SOCH Youth for their valuable participation in this program in learning about humanism.
The Humanist Day celebration was incredibly successful with informative speeches from experts, academicians, journalists and micro-economists that inspired the young people think in a scientific and rational manner to aim at creating positive change for society. There were Humanist and non-humanist participants in the program.