Time for Reflection: Humanist Message of Hope and Support for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Morven Lyons

This week Humanist Society Scotland trustee Morven Lyon delivered Time For Reflection at the Scottish Parliament. Morven spoke about the current crisis in Afghanistan and advocated for tolerance and support for the Afghan people and for those displaced by the return of the Taliban and in need of asylum.

Watch Morven’s address in the video or read the text below.

Presiding Officer and members of the Scottish Parliament, welcome back and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

My wee girl started primary 1 two weeks ago. On her first morning, she packed her new school bag, put on her shiny new shoes and, as a family, we walked over to the school gates full of happiness and hope. I reflected afterwards how lucky and privileged I am that my family and I call Scotland our home—a place where my daughter’s right to an education is protected and unassailable. I did not do anything special to earn our rights. I was born here and won the unjust human lottery of life.

I do not need to tell you how different my daughter’s educational outlook and basic human rights would be if she had been born in Afghanistan, from where there are so many recent reports of human rights violations and discrimination. It is clear that many people are suffering. I am a humanist and view those violations as a dire threat to many of the fundamental values of the humanist movement—freedom of thought, speech, and choice; the human rights of women, children and LGBTI+ people; and the very fundamentals of knowledge, rationality and human empathy. I would therefore like to reflect today on our global responsibility to offer a hand of support and friendship to those who did not win the human lottery.

Scotland is often held up as a great example of a welcoming, fair and inclusive nation. We pride ourselves on our open arms and we like to think that no matter where a person was born, they will get a friendly and warm welcome if they decide to make Scotland their home. The collective concern of neighbours to those who were affected by the dawn raids in the south side of Glasgow filled me with hope.

However, it would be naïve of me to leave you with such a one-sided view. There are still many corners and communities in Scotland where lives are negatively affected by discrimination and a closed-minded attitude to those who were not lucky enough to be born here. We must not get complacent about the perception of Scotland as a tolerant and welcoming nation. We need actively to champion and live that label. Let the 70th anniversary year of the 1951 Refugee Convention remind us that we all deserve to live a life of dignity, and that the right to seek asylum is a fundamental human right.


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