KAOHSIUNG, TAIWAN — Young Humanists International (YHI), formerly International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organization (IHEYO) assembled again the most active secular Humanists of Asia on December 29 and 30, 2018 in the port city of Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Hosting this year’s anticipated official YHI gathering was Humanistic Pastafarianism in Taiwan 台灣人文煮意麵團 (HPT) founded by YHI Asian Working Group Chairman Kevin Feng, with Hotel Yam 塩旅社 as the official venue partner.
Influencing some of the most important discussions at the conference was the Filipino delegation from Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) composed of Alvin John Ballares (Executive Director), Edwin Bulaclac, Jr. (Chief Finance Officer), Alain Presillas (trustee) and McJarwin Cayacap (news contributor). HAPI has been a force to reckon with in Southeast Asia since 2014 in terms of secular Humanist education.
First Pastafarians of Asia
Humanistic Pastafarianism in Taiwan 台灣人文煮意麵團 (HPT) was approved by the Ministry of the Interior of Taiwan in August 2017 and was given legal status in November of the same year, making it the first ever Pastafarian religion to be recognized in the history of Asia. HPT is presently headquartered in Tamsui District, Kaohsiung in Taiwan, starting with only thirty active members upon its approval but has grown to almost 12,000 followers on Facebook in about a year.
In an interview of Humanistic Pastafarianism in Taiwan with Kevin Feng, he narrated how the registration process was held up by the Taiwanese government because the group’s name was not explicitly suggestive of a religion due to the unusual use of the word “pasta”. Meantime, Pastafarianism has been a legally recognized religion in the Netherlands and New Zealand, and is a popular movement in the United States.
“The official-in-charge hoped that we can either change the name or not register the organisation as a religious group. We replied with three points. Our first point was that ‘pasta’ is a very religious word to our believers and according to Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, governments should respect the right of religions to ‘use their own language’. Secondly, in the Netherlands and New Zealand, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has already been recognised by the government. Thus, there is a historical precedent and our application is not something that is out of thin air. Thirdly, Taiwan has other religious groups that are not religious in an obvious sense, from the perspective of an average person. For example, some groups are called Social Behavior Research Society 社会行为研究社. According to Section 6 of the Administrative Procedure Act of Taiwan: ‘The rule of administrative behaviour is to grant equal favours to all unless there are proper reasons otherwise’,” Feng narrated interestingly.
HPT hopes to merge Humanism and Pastafarianism, allowing themselves to learn new knowledge and serve the society through various activities. However, within the Pastafarian world, critics have argued that Humanism is not Pastafarian enough to simply begin with.
Pastafarian tenets are generally satires of creationism. HPT believes that the Flying Spaghetti Monster, in His Drunkenness, fell down and caused a thunderbolt that created the whole world.
“To test human intelligence, the Flying Spaghetti Monster created religion. However, human proved to be not so intelligent and completely believed the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s story. As a result, the Flying Spaghetti Monster created Humanism beginning from the Renaissance,” Feng further narrated.
To create opportunities for people to be satirical believers, HPT is committed to organizing gatherings, lectures and ceremonies that address religious oppression of women as well as religious infiltration into public education and political systems among many others.
“In Pastafarianism, there are pirates, beer and Humanism, but we model ourselves after Confucius’ ‘The Great Learning 大學’—the way of great learning is in illustrating virtue, in loving people, and in only stopping when perfect goodness is attained,” Feng concluded.
Uniting the Unicorns
Referencing the book, “Unicorns Unite” by non-profit experts Jane Leu, Vu Le and Jessamyn Shams-Lau, incumbent YHI Asian Working Group Vice-Chairperson Danielle Hill did a lecture-cum-workshop, titled “A Portrait of the Humanist as a Unicorn: Effecting Social Change through Epic Partnerships”.
Day 1 took the delegates for a rocket-ship ride to the important questions: What makes an epic partnership? How do we work towards our ideal state? How do we overcome distrust and dysfunction in the unicorn family? How can we achieve incredible feats of social change?
Hill provided a nitty-gritty, inside look at how foundations and nonprofits relate today, and why they are stuck in the status quo. Through a series of individual and group exercises, the delegates were able to paint a subjective picture of a partnership grounded in equality, trust and creativity. After all, partnerships do help both foundations and nonprofits to think bigger, bolder and better about social change—key to finally slaying the big dragons of injustice and inequity.
Truly, the day was planned for delegates to experience a whimsical journey, and it ended in a mood that made everyone roll up their sleeves and dive into making things happen. It was a time of re-discovering the persistent, visionary and brilliant professional in every delegate.
Hill is a multi-awarded playwright. She was a resource speaker at the 2016 Asian Humanism Conference in Taipei, and was the Conference Director at the 2017 installment in Manila, Philippines.
From Innovation to Strategy
Titled “A General Concept of Strategic Evolution and Organizational Innovation”, the Day 2 lecture-cum-workshop by business and economy expert Darren Wu engaged the delegates into more brainstorming sessions that leveled up the discussions and deepened the analysis of the status of Asian Humanism.
Wu led group exercises that made the delegates understand how Innovation Theory can translate to efficient team discussions and eventually to strategies or ideas that actually work. Founded on the general idea that humans live in societies that rely deeply on cooperation, the exercises put to test the delegates’ skills of problem analysis and solution. The goal was not only to analyze and solve, but also share tools that optimize a strategy or idea for the organization.
Systems, markets, capitals and shocks—terms usually encountered in the study and practice of business and economy—undoubtedly also apply on nonprofits and foundations alike as they do on any other funded organization.
Wu is a co-founder of Think of Marketing and Technology. He is a copywriter, digital marketing developer and lecturer.
Into 2019 and Beyond
2018 YHI Asian Humanism Conference gathered the most active secular Humanists of Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, India and the Philippines. After brainstorming for two conference days, the multi-national delegation reached a consensus on a main agenda, that is to institutionalize the Asian Working Group so as to foster a stable, bonded and active network of secular Humanists in Asia in the next five years.
The agenda includes the convening of a regional congress in which locally elected leaders of YHI Asian member organizations represent their respective countries during extensive policy-making.
Also, the agenda includes the exchange of staff among YHI Asian member organizations so as to learn best practices and proven effective techniques in logistics, branding, public relations, recruitment, project management, data processing and social entrepreneurship. The exchange program can be extended to volunteers of member organizations.
With a regularly convening regional congress and annual exchange programs, the Asian Working Group hopes to put every active member organization in the spotlight of modern world Humanism, proving worthy that International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) may pay closer attention and provide more generous funding to efforts in the region.
HAPI has been an official and active member organization of YHI and IHEU since 2015. Also, HAPI was a recipient of the IHEU Regional Hub Grant.
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