Over 1000 atheist, humanist and other non-religious organisations and activists from over 60 countries from the world gathered in the internationally renowned university city of Oxford for the World Humanist Congress, hosted by the British Humanist Association (BHA). This was the first time the Congress has been held in the United Kingdom since 1978 and was the the biggest Congress in its history.
Congress celebrated freedom of thought and expression and, on closing the conference, the BHA unveiled the Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression. The Declaration was described by BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson as an ‘urgent manifesto’ for reform and subject to overwhelming popular endorsement on the Congress floor. The Declaration read that ‘The right to freedom of thought and belief is one and the same right for all; no one anywhere should ever be forced into or out of a belief; the right to freedom of expression is global in its scope; there is no right not to be offended, or not to hear contrary opinions; states must not restrict thought and expression merely to protect the government from criticism; and freedom of belief is absolute but the freedom to act on a belief is not.’
The World Humanist Congress had many speakers and sessions over three days. The Congress was filmed and those will be available shortly. Many hundreds of photographs are beginning to be uploaded by the BHA and delegates to the World Humanist Congress group on Flickr. You can also catch up with what happened by reading the news reports on the BHA website, searching for #WHC2014 on Twitter, and checking out the Congress Facebook page.
At Congress, Labour Humanists’ chair Naomi Phillips led a session asking ‘Should Humanism matter in politics’ with a truly fantastic panel: Kerry McCarthy MP, Tom Copley AM, Julie Pernet (European Humanist Federation) and Maggie Ardiente (American Humanist Association). We will publish a report of this session soon.