Opening Words from Sun. December 6 by Anya Overmann

Good morning. My name is Anya Overmann. As many of you know, I am a member of FES (Future of Ethical Societies) which is a national group welcoming Humanists from ages 18-35. But today I have come to talk to you about another organization of which both FES and I have recently joined. This organization is called IHEYO: International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organization. IHEYO is the youth section of IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union) which represents the global humanist movement that defends human rights and promotes Humanist values worldwide.

A few weeks ago, I attended the IHEYO General Assembly in Oslo, Norway. This was my first experience with Humanists outside of the US and I must say, it was incredible. I had no idea how large a network of Humanists existed out of the US… not just Humanists, but Humanists my age! IHEYO is made up of around 20 member organizations with almost 30 associates or partners.

There were around 50 attendees to this conference representing countries from all over the world: Norway, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Italy, Romania, Uganda, India, and the Philippines, just to name several. To my surprise however, I was not only the sole representative of the US, but I was also representing both continents of the Americas. This was the first time someone from this side of the world had ever attended an IHEYO General Assembly.

During this Assembly, several exciting things happened. FES became an official member of IHEYO, so we are now officially plugged into an international network of young Humanists. And I was elected as the social media manager for IHEYO, so I now run the Facebook and Twitter accounts. In addition to my position, a few other members of FES were elected into positions within the Americas Working Group of IHEYO. I should explain that IHEYO is divided into regional working groups: a European Working Group, an Asian Working Group, an African Working Group, and very recently, the Americas Working Group. And these regional working groups are made up of local Humanist groups. I was surprised to learn just how active and organized these working groups are. The Americas Working Group is very new and only composed of FES right now, but as the new Interim Chair of the group, I’m hoping to expand our network throughout the continents.

Getting to know the Humanists at the Oslo Assembly, I quickly learned just how similar we are. They think critically, they are passionate, they are quirky, they care deeply for humanity. Considering this international network of Humanists along with the national network of Humanists back home, it puzzled me that we as American Humanists were not already well connected with these great people beyond the borders of the US. This assembly really gave me a lot of perspective about just how big our Humanist community is. I am really happy to now have Humanist friends all over the world.

And listening to the stories from some of these friends really put my concept of Humanism into perspective. Coming from a land of Christian majority, Humanism has always felt like a sanctuary frequently mistaken for something more threatening. After listening to my friend in Uganda speak about his home being unsuccessfully set ablaze with his young children locked inside and his car successfully torched just for being openly Humanist; and after another Humanist from India messaged the IHEYO Facebook page sharing his worries about being under surveillance, hacked, and under threat of death… I really had to reassess the value of my freedoms as a Humanist here in the US. It really dawned on me how important the global Humanist community is. We really must use our freedoms and privileges to help others who are not afforded basic human rights.

I think IHEYO is one of the most important communities I’ve ever taken part in, and now young Humanists in the US have a lot of opportunity to effect powerful global change. I’m proud to be a part of the world Humanist community, I’m proud to be at the forefront of the movement, and I hope I’ve inspired you to consider your Humanist impact on a larger scale, to dream BIGGER, because we’ve really got something special here.

I encourage you all to like the IHEYO Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter. We also have a monthly newsletter to which you can subscribe. Thank you.