Stuff wrote an article today about the issues the Humanist Society have been having with international conference delegates and speakers visiting New Zealand next month.

The local Wellington Humanists met with one of the conference speakers, Leo Igwe, on Friday, and over a beer we had an interesting conversation about what humanism means. For those not in the know, Humanism offers a way for us to live ethical lives without needing guidance from a divine being. We believe that our own rationality is the best tool we have to guide how we live. This fits very well with skepticism, where skeptics apply rationality to all aspects of life. A nice way that the idea of Humanism has been summarised in the past is "Good without god".

The Stuff article talks about the International Humanist and Ethical Union's General Assembly, which they hold every year in a different country around the world and brings together Humanists who are battling superstition in their countries. This year the Assembly is accompanied by a one day conference, where speakers such as Leo Igwe from Nigeria and Gulalai Ismail from Pakistan are set to talk about their experiences in countries where superstition is rife, and their work involves a great deal of personal risk.

Unfortunately, getting these well known international speakers into the country has been far from plain sailing. Leo's visa was declined at first, along with applications from other Humanists.

Leo's home was invaded because of his willingness to stand against nonsense:

Gulalai's application has been pending for a while now, and it may have something to do with a public blasphemy accusation against her in her home country of Pakistan.

Kato Mukasa, from Uganda, has also had his visa declined. He has suffered multiple attacks because of his work in Uganda

Kato's application has been re-submitted with the help of an immigration lawyer, which was also done for Leo's visa. Hopefully this effort will be successful. Unfortunately there's no recourse for denied applications beyond re-applying, as the letters say:

"Please note that there is no statutory right of appeal."

The IHEU's annual meeting is a place for people who are tirelessly fighting for human rights around the world to meet others in the same situation. It's a pity that New Zealand has been the most difficult country the IHEU has ever tried to hold a meeting in.