- Human Rights, Youth
For the occasion of World Humanist Day which is celebrated on the 21st of June, we had the privilege of visiting the Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands (Humanist Association of Germany). The scale of the association, employing thousands, is something that we as a tiny Maltese association can only dream of! They cater for over seventy thousand students all over the country who choose Humanism as their preferred life stance, run a number of hospices and youth clubs, and organise a Youth Celebration for thousands of adolescents who choose a Humanist coming of age ceremony.
During our first day, we attended two classes at the John F. Kennedy School in Berlin. The first class listened to a podcast the children themselves scripted and recorded, covering their conclusions about the scholastic year. Far from being prescriptive, the pedagogical style was a very democratic one, where the role of the teacher was more of a facilitator who brings up questions and moderates the discussion. The second class was for younger children where the focus was more of empowerment, allowing students to showcase something they are good at to the rest of the class.
In the afternoon, we visited a children’s hospice where children with various conditions (not necessarily life threatening) can spend time in a homely, safe, yet stimulating environment. The dedication and professionalism of the staff was impressive, with every possible effort put in to make the lives of their service users as good as possible from every angle, including supporting the grieving process when one of the children dies.
On the second day, we visited two youth clubs in two very distinct neighbourhoods: one where most of the youth come from disadvantaged backgrounds and the second in an affluent part of Berlin. Although coming from diametrically opposite situations, the youth still have needs: in the case of the former, they need attention and care from grown ups, sometimes even food, and skills to improve their future prospects. In the latter case, those attending usually need to find their space, meet friends, and explore their talents without any pressure.
It has been a beautiful experience to witness the positive impact Humanism is having on so many lives that it touches. Ultimately, the question of believing or not in a god and/or an afterlife might be overrated. Perhaps a better question is how to make the world a better place for ourselves and fellow beings, where pain and suffering are reduced, where everyone can freely thrive and flourish.