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200+ Share Ideas At IHEU World Congress

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 13, Number 1.

More than two hundred delegates from across the world met at Mexico City on November 14-19 for the 13th Humanist World Congress, "Global Humanism for the Cyber-Age." The Congress was jointly sponsored by the Asociacion Mexicana Etica Racionalista (AMER) and the Council for Secular Humanism. It brought together an unpecedented number of Spanish-speaking humanists, with delegates from Mexico, Spain, and almost every Latin American country. Also strongly represented were the Middle East and the Islamic world. There was even a representative from Nepal.

The congress focused on the infomedia revolution and the developing world, especially the challenges to humanist development in countries trying to leap from simple economies to information-age economies without going through the intermediate stage of industrialization. Other topics included the challenges of bio-technologies, secularism and the threat of intolerance, and female empowerment.

Bangladeshi novelist Taslima Nasrin, in exile under Islamic death threats, was the Congress's star attraction. Nasrin drew strong attention from Mexico City media. Other distinguished headliners included Shulamit Aloni, a former Israeli minister of science and the arts; Fariba Hachtroudi, a noted activist against Muslim rule in Iran; software guru Richard Stallman; and Mexican-Canadian philosopher Mario Bunge.

A persistent theme was the power of the Internet and related telecommunications technologies to aid humanist recruitment and organizing efforts. PCs were available at which attendees could surf the Internet and visit humanist World Wide Web sites across the planet.

Besides the bilingual congress sessions, attendees enjoyed a spirited banquet complete with mariachi band, as well as a broad array of cultural and touring opportunities in historic Mexico City.

Over $16,000 Raised At IHEU Banquet

Gifts and pledges totaling $16,333.25 were raised in response to fundraising appeals at the Gala Banquet of the World Humanist Congress in Mexico City. Paul Kurtz, Tim Madigan, Matt Cherry, and Tom Flynn of the Council for Secular Humanism challenged the delegates to erase the congress's deficit and provide operating capital for the IHEU's new beginning in London.

Many delegates hailed from European countries where government support, not individual philanthropy, is the norm. So there were gasps of disbelief when a US $20,000 goal was announced for the impromptu campaign. Gasps gave way to applause at word that a single anonymous donor had pledged $5,000 to kick off the appeal. Before the Congress adjourned, gifts and pledges totaling $16,333.25 had been received. "Quite a few delegates took pledge forms home with them," reported Council for Secular Humanism executive director Matt Cherry, "so we're hopeful that additional gifts will take us to our $20,000 goal. In any event, the Congress deficit has been wiped out and a substantial sum will remain to fund the IHEU's operations in London beginning in 1997."

Following the Congress, the anonymous $5,000 donor ended his secrecy. Paul Kurtz, founder of Free Inquiry and a past president of IHEU, pledged the seed gift in order to inspire giving by others and to help build a pattern of financial self-sufficiency as IHEU girds for the twenty-first century.

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This page was last updated 01/21/2004

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