A representative from East London Humanists was on the panel at the annual multi-faith/belief event at Hackney Community College on 25.1.17. Representatives from Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism were also on the panel.
The theme was populism, the events of 2016, and what lessons we can learn from the past to ensure harmony and a better future.
There was an opportunity as a Humanist to briefly explain our world view, and the values of decency and respect we have in common with many religious people, albeit ours are derived only from reason and Humanity, not from religious texts.
It was argued that populism, as personified by Trump, involves seeking power by offering simplistic answers to the concerns of people whose thinking is not always sophisticated. It plays on the fear that it is ‘the other’ who threaten their way of life, standard of living and identity. There are similar trends in the UK and in Europe.
One important lesson of history is that populism often results in catastrophe for ‘the other’, for example Jews, gays, gypsies and the disabled in Nazi Germany. Prayer did nothing to change the situation there. It is important to identify and call out those who propagate hate, and to argue and work for change based on reason, respect and recognition of our common humanity.
Judging from responses the students at this voluntary event were largely strong adherents of their own faith group who had little prior understanding of Humanism. It was encouraging that the audience and panel appeared to be at one in their concerns about Trump. Those Christians who expressed a view denied that he was a Christian at all.