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Atheist coalition challenges Canadian government on Special Refugee Program

Press Release: Elmira Ontario, October 4, 2021 Contact: Doug Thomas, President, Secular Connexion Séculière (SCS) 519-580-4071 Website: Secular Connexion Séculière In collaboration with: Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Republic, Centre For Inquiry Canada, The Cultural Bridges Association, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Humanist Association of Toronto,Humanist Canada, Humanists International, Humanist Ottawa, and Society of Freethinkers: Our collaborative endeavour urgently calls upon the government of Canada to immediately issue a clarification of its Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals, to explicitly include non-religious Afghan atheists, humanists, and agnostics. The tenuous and dangerous living circumstances in Afghanistan following the nation’s fall to the Taliban are dire for many of its citizens, especially atheists and other apostates. Humanist, atheist, and agnostic organizations in Canada represent a diverse group of people who believe that each of us has the responsibility to give meaning to our own life. Those citizens finding meaning in rethinking and rejecting the idea of supernatural entities, including gods, must be as respected as religious believers. In the spirit of the universalism of secular humanism, a consortium of Canada’s many humanist, atheist and agnostic organizations have come together to urgently call upon the government to ameliorate a grave error in the Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals. The current policy language of the Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals is as follows: “There are 2 eligible groups under this program. Group 1: You may be eligible for this program if you’re an Afghan national you’re outside of Afghanistan and you don’t have a durable solution in a third country This group will include people such as woman leaders human rights advocate journalists and people who assisted Canadian journalists persecuted religious minorities LGBTI individuals immediate family members of one of the above Group 2: You may be eligible for this program if you’re an extended family member of someone who helped the Government of Canada and has already been resettled to Canada.” The language used in this policy that exclusively designates eligibility based on membership in a persecuted religious minority group explicitly discriminates against those persecuted on the basis of their non-belief and atheism. Atheists and apostates from Islam in Afghanistan face extreme danger and this serious risk should be neither overlooked nor dismissed. It is well established that the classical punishment for apostasy in Islamic jurisprudence is death. Senior Taliban officials have recently announced their intention to impose strict traditional Sharia (Islamic law) punishments, including execution and the amputation of hands. Thus, the safety of all apostates and non-believers is of the utmost concern. This policy’s highly restrictive current language fails to meet Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the observance and promotion of “freedom of religion or belief.” The government of Canada is also failing to fulfill its responsibility as a party to the United Nations 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which describes refugees as those who are “unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Abdullah Sameer, YouTuber & Blogger, Friendly Ex-Muslim, & Previous Founder, Light Upon Light and Verse By Verse Quran Ali A. Rizvi, M.D., Author, “The Atheist Muslim”, & Co-Host, Secular Jihadists for a Muslim Enlightenment podcast Andy Blair, Founder & Chair, Ubuntu Canada Refugee Armin Navabi, Founder, Atheist Republic, Author, “Why There Is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments for the Existence of God”, & Co-Host, Secular Jihadists for a Muslim Enlightenment podcast Prof. Arthur Schafer, Founding Director, Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, University of Manitoba Babak Yazdi, Executive Director, Kanoon-e-Khavaran Christine Ball, Co-President, Ontario Humanist Society Christopher DiCarlo, Ph.D., Philosopher, Founder, Critical Thinking Solutions, & author of multiple titles including, “So You Think You Can Think? Tools for Having Intelligent Conversations and Getting Along” David Rand, President, Libres penseurs athées — Atheist Freethinkers Diane Bruce, Director, Centre for Inquiry Canada, & Branch Manager, Centre for Inquiry Canada — Ottawa Doug Thomas, President, Secular Connexion Séculière Edan Tasca, Board Member, Centre For Inquiry Canada Fika Taillon, Founder & Organizer, Minds & Hearts Without Borders George Cordahi, Vice President, Halton Peel Humanist Community Gus Lyn-Piluso, Ph.D., President, Centre for Inquiry Canada Henry Beissel, Distinguished Emeritus Professor, Concordia University, Montreal Homa Arjomand, Active Director, The Cultural Bridges Association, & Coordinator, The Campaign Open Borders for Afghan Women and Children Fleeing the Taliban Jannalee Morris, President, Atheist Society of Calgary Jason Sylvester, Board Member at Large, Atheist Alliance International Jocelyne Lemoine, Branch Manager, Centre for Inquiry Canada — Winnipeg Katherine Dimou, President, Society of Freethinkers Kendra Getty, Branch Manager, Centre for Inquiry Canada — Saskatoon Kenn Bur, Founder, Secular Wall Kerry Bowser, Co-President, Ontario Humanist Society Lawrence M. Krauss, Ph.D., President, The Origins Project Foundation, Host, The Origins Podcast, & author of multiple titles including, “The Greatest Story Ever Told–So Far: Why Are We Here?” Leonard Walsh, Branch Manager, Centre for Inquiry Canada — Nova Scotia Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, M.Ed., Ph.D., President, The New Enlightenment Project: A Canadian Humanist Initiative Madeline Weld, Ph.D., Co-Editor, Humanist Perspectives magazine Martin Frith, President, Humanist Canada Muhammad Syed, President, Ex-Muslims of North America Neil Bernstein, YouTuber, Neil The 604 Atheist Randolf Richardson, President, Canadian atheists E. Onur C. Romano, Human Rights Chair, Centre For Inquiry Canada, & President, Ateizm Derneği International Richard Dowsett, President, Halton Peel Humanist Community, & Coordinator, Humanist Association of Toronto Richard G. L. Thain, D.D.S., Founding board member, Centre For Inquiry Canada, & Founder, Humanist Canada Student Essay Contest Richard Young, M.Eng., Co-Editor, Humanist Perspectives magazine Robert Hamilton, President, Humanist Ottawa Sandra Dunham, BSc, MPA, Executive Director of Development, Centre For Inquiry Canada Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Independent Researcher, Journalist Seanna Watson, Vice President, Centre for Inquiry Canada Sheila Ayala, President, Secular Ontario Simon Parcher, President, Canadian Humanist Publications Sohail Ahmad, President, Ex-Muslims of Toronto Sophie Shulman, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sci., Branch Manager, Centre For Inquiry Canada — Victoria Steven Pinker, Ph.D., Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, & author of multiple titles including, “Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters” Susanna McIntyre, President & CEO, Atheist Republic Tahmineh Sadeghi, Spokesperson, Hambasteghi – International Federation of Iranian Refugees Tarek Fatah, Fellow, Middle East Forum, Columnist, The Toronto Sun, & author of multiple tiles including, “The Jew is Not My Enemy”, Yasmine Mohammed, Founder, Free Hearts Free Minds, & Author, “Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam”

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