An Interview with Nabina Maharjan — Secretary/Youth Advisor, Society for Humanism Nepal
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Any family background in humanism?
Nabina Maharjan: Most of my family members are Hindu and Buddhist. But at one point, they went beyond religion. I could say they made decisions towards something like humanism. There are lots of non-believer beliefs that family members in my generation ignore.
Jacobsen: What was the moment of humanist awakening for you?
Maharjan: Nepal is also known as religious country. My family also religious and in our community, religious activities teaches from childhood. Whether its worship a concept of God or goddess or believing in it. I was also religious during my childhood days. After my higher education, I started working. During my working time I met many people, I try to being socialize. When I was thinking about life and during social activities, I use my logic. Most of time, I feel awkward and uncomfortable being doing religious work or such unbelief matters. I feel that I am attracting people to show what I am doing, which I do not like. I always try to find an answer behind ‘No’. Which made my family and other irritate, I believe in every No there is an answer.
Later I am involved in Society for Humanism (SOCH) Nepal. I read about humanism, its principles and philosophy. It is very new and hot cake for me at that time. Slowly I realise internally all those feeling that I have is called humanism and somewhere I have humanism. Specially headed in mind the word Human and we all human are equal .Where I don’t have to be a Human Right activist, any humanitarian and any social workers because it’s all in Humanism. If I said about inspired in Humanism, its scientific and critical thinking, its value and philosophies.
Jacobsen: As the secretary/youth advisor for the Society for Humanism Nepal, what tasks and responsibilities come with this position? How do you build a support base?
Maharjan: Since the establishment of SOCH Nepal, I was there and coordinating activities of SOCH. Being involved in SOCH and boosting the SOCH mission, vision and goals, I never realise my designation to work. I feel like it’s my organization, that showed me the way of living and clear my vision. If I really need to talk about being the secretary, my tasks and responsibilities are calling meeting, taking minutes, and updating all of the activities happening in SOCH.
Since the establish time in SOCH, I have lots of familiarity with the activities, and I believe in change and opportunities. As a youth advisor, I guide the youth team in how to work in teams and conduct programs so they can directly become involved in activities and then groom their capacity to performance for the next leader. I, personally, do not interfere in their coordination, but needing supervision then I will be there.
Jacobsen: What is the current state of humanism with Nepal? What is its brief history there too?
Maharjan: The term Humanism is relatively new in Nepal — though many atheists and secular minded people campaigned for secular Nepal. Nepal remained the world’s only one Hindu country for decades. The 2007 constitution of Nepal declared Nepal a secular country. Although, the Nepali constitution clearly mentions provision of preserving old time religion, which is Hinduism. Nepal is the country where Buddha was born. Buddha probably was the first person to speak against superstition and religious dogmas in the East. His idea of secularism has flourished throughout the world. A famous education reformist Mr. Jaya Prithivi Singh promoted the idea of Humanism in Nepal during the 1919s. He has written dozens of books on Humanism and travelled to various countries to spread the idea. There was no organized Humanist movement till the late 1920s. An organization called Humanist Association of Nepal was formed during 1980s. However, it could not survive due to various reasons. Later, the Society for Humanism (SOCH) Nepal was formed in 2005, which became only one leading Humanist organization in Nepal. Thousands of members are associated to SOCH Nepal, which is also the member of IHEU.
Jacobsen: Are youth or elders in the society more involved in humanism? What are the activities, educational initiative, and social and political projects related to humanism available to youth in Nepal?
Maharjan: We do not have any exact record of youths’ or elders’ involvement in humanism, but during the program and discussion when we meet peoples they have the feeling of humanism. Elders have the concept of humanism, and followers too, and belief in the concept of humanism.
If we talk about in more recent times, more youths that I have seen are humanists because they are not ready to have belief in the concept of God, and those unseen things. They use their logic to question and the belief in science as much as we had interacted in colleges and groups. Yes, they have confusion on humanism, but somewhere they are humanists as I realise — and SOCH has made clear to them.
There are no educational initiatives, and social and political projects, related to humanism available to youth in Nepal done by the Government.
Regarding the activities, SOCH is one organization that is working in Nepal to promote humanism, its philosophy and values in society. We are regularly doing our youth discussion/seminars and youth talks on humanism, scientific & critical thinking in different colleges and schools. We are practicing in school to teach scientific and critical thinking, and run one class on humanism too. SOCH targeted to youth because they are change maker and tomorrow’s leaders.
Jacobsen: What are some of the main threats to the free practice of humanism in Nepal?
Maharjan: Although, Nepal is a secular country now, right wing Hindu group are well-organized and practicing extreme radicalism. On other hand, Christians are proselytizing Nepali society getting benefit of secular constitution. Hindu and Christian groups are confronting day by day. Meantime, Humanists have become the enemy of both radicles due to its secular values based on science and atheism.
Radical Hindu are the biggest threat in Nepali society because they are more organized after the declaration of secular state. Humanist activists are threatened and attacked by radical Hindu group many times in Nepal.
Jacobsen: What are your short- and long-term goals for humanism in Nepal?
Maharjan: SOCH Nepal short and long-term goals are to promote a scientific way of life, good governance, democracy and justice with humanist values, to promote humanistic and ethical practices and to raise awareness about individual human obligation.
Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Nabina.