Center for Civil Courage is a feminist and freethinking organization, established on 25th November 2011 in Croatia. From its beginning the Center has been promoting civil courage, awareness of the merit of evolutionary humanism, human rights, secularism, feminist activism and solidarity, critical and free thinking, scientific and rational cognition.
Center is a full member of Atheist Alliance International, International Ethic and Humanist Union and European Humanist Federation.
Years that passed since we first organized as a civil association were full of challenges. We met many of them head on. We courageously and explicitly stood for what we advocate – a humanistic worldview based on critical and free thinking and on the feminist theory and activism primarily insisting on empowering everybody who is different and thus deprived of civil rights.
We spoke loudly when many were silent. We offered support to people whom others decided to turn their back to. We vociferously expressed our discontent with violations of human rights.
Through our actions, projects and activities we are striving to primarily create a better and more humane world. Compassion and solidarity shall remain foundations for our future actions.
The Center’s projects are:
The first humanist conference in Croatia gathered humanist, feminist and secular activists from ex-Yugoslav countries (mostly from Croatia and Serbia) and world known secular activists and thinkers. This humanist gathering enabled meeting of larger group of people from Croatia, who otherwise are unable to attend humanist conferences or have no other opportunities to explore humanist thought, and provided them with opportunity to get familiar with opinions of renown thinkers from country and abroad.
It succeeded in improvement of communication and connections between Serbian and Croatian humanist and feminist NGO-s, such as Žene u crnom (Women in Black) and Humans from Serbia and Center for Civil Courage, Protagora and Ženska mreža Hrvatske (Croatian Woman’s Network) from Croatia. It enabled us to compare the anti-secular fundamentalist movements that are the leading force in defying women’s and LGBT rights in both countries.
Special attention was given to the physicians that demand control of appeal to conscience in Croatia since the appeal to conscience is the biggest obstacle to the consummation of women’s right to abortion in our country.
Elisabeth O’Casey, director of advocacy of IHEU, informed the Croatian and Serbian activists about the international human rights practices connected to the religious opposition to women’s rights and the religious sanction of discrimination of women and LGBT people. On the other side, A. C. Grayling gave a speech about the philosophical foundations of the irreligious worldview, which is something that can be rarely heard in ex-Yugoslav countries.
The conference strengthened persons who were activists in respect to discussed topics and removed prejudices and fears in those that were previously only bystanders. We are particularly proud that we were able to reassert the term «humanism» in Croatian public discourse, since this term almost disappeared in the last ten years or was only occasionally mentioned with certain historic figures and even incorrectly only in respect to humanitarian work.
We are glad that the term secularism that we have been promotion for years in our public activities, after this conference was included even in political programs of left and liberal parties, some of them already being parliamentary parties and some of them only now entering the political arena. Separation of church and state, as a motto that dominated the conference, in many cases became the first thing these parties emphasize in their programs.
We are glad that some lectures of our Croatian and Bosnian lecturers, upon request of European organizations, were translated into English.
The Academy’s Humanist workshops for elementary school children are a place where we encourage and promote free and critical thinking, rational and scientific ideas, humanist principles, feminist theory, activism and civil courage. The workshops encourage skeptical thinking and, consequently, exploration and critical evaluation of existing knowledge while encouraging children to have confidence in their own reasoning. Children are also introduced to human rights struggle and heritage thus developing their compassion and solidarity with needs and rights of other, especially underprivileged members of society.
Encouraging of critical thought and rational ideas, strengthening of own identity and, most importantly, safe space remain a part of each workshop in which children may freely and without fear express their opinions and experiences from school. Experiences from our previous workshops show that the need for humanist workshops is not only recognized by non-religious families but also by religious parents who do not want their children to be deprived of education that includes humanist values.
Through our support center “Secularism without compromise” we offer support and advices regarding to preserving secularism and freedom of/from religion in the educational system. In 2013 and 2014 we published online leaflets and manual „ No God, No Religion Class” offering specific advices to parents in respect to rights of their children in case parents decide not to enroll them in religious education classes in public schools.
Our secular advocacy is about speaking out on human rights issues and taking action to improve a situation. Since we are concerned about persistent violations of the secular principle, especially in public education domain, in September we addressed the public with information about the fact that the Ministry of Education and Sport ignored our warning regarding statue of Virgin Mary in an elementary school in Zadar. After this information became published in media the school was forced to react and to restrict religious statues only to premises in which religious classes are being held. Unfortunately, while we were successful in this particular case, display of religious symbols is still a commonplace in many public institutions, including public schools, so there is still a lot of work ahead of us. Center for Civil Courage recently sent a formal request to the Ministry of Education demanding to ensure systematic and professional care for children who do not attend religious education. At the moment, such children are usually left unattended in school hallways or are, most alarmingly, asked to stay in classrooms during religious classes since no members of school staff are available to look after them. Thus far we haven’t received any formal reply and haven’t been convinced that proper steps will be undertaken in due time.
The Center is the first organization in Croatia and the entire Balkan region that successfully funded a children-book through Kickstarter and published it afterwards. The book in question is entitled “Humanism for Children” and it is printed in Croatian, English and German.
The author, as a parent, attempted to introduce her child to humanist values, love for fellow human beings, responsibility towards society and environment, as well as capability for free inquiry and critical evaluation of existing knowledge. This was the starting point of creation of this book which was completed with cooperation of various experts such as physicists, sociologists, psychologists and philosophers, as well as human rights and feminist activists from civil societies.
The result is a book that promotes skepticism and consequently inquiry and critical thinking and encourages children to have confidence in their own reason. Prepared and informed children are better equipped to understand the world in which they live, they may not be easilymislead by society and are more assertive in realization of their rights and less vulnerable.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part introduces children to scientific and social ideas, while the second part offers children ten humanist suggestions to make their lives better and more just. The first part of the book explains what the society in which children of the present live is about. It also discusses the values the families cherish which are often opposed to that reality. Thus the children are faced with a realistic picture, through valid arguments the worldview of their parents is strengthened. The second part of the book contains ten recommendations for better and more equitable life based on humanistic values. These are not rules, norms, commandments and not something that children should blindly accept. The book offers advices that should also be critically evaluated. Recommendations are based on existing human knowledge, researches and human experiences. They provide tools for children to answer questions they will face throughout life but ultimately these recommendations don’t have to be accepted, which is significantly different than religious norms.
This Club promotes feminism and critical thinking among women and encourages women to oppose oppressive religions, cultures and dogmas.
Within the scope of Lilith Club our activities were also aimed at protection and strengthening of right on reproductive health. Together with other associations we designed a website that promotes Government’s modern and secular program of health education and provides all necessary information to counter semi-information and misinformation disseminated by conservative religious groups. We protested for marriage equality for LGBT people. Through our street actions we are resisting increasing pressure from Catholic Church aimed at prohibition of abortion, contraceptives and artificial insemination.
Our Sophie Scholl Legacy was founded March, 20th 2013. Through the Sophie Scholl Legacy, the Center will promote an invigoration of cultural responsibility, a confrontation with the past, a culture of retribution for war crimes, and solidarity with the victims i.e. survivors of all aspects of violence. We, who live in democracies owe it to all the victims of war, violence and threats not to stay silent. Our Center explicitly opposes fascism, misogyny, ethnocentrism, militarism, racism and xenophobia.
The founders of the Legacy honor Sophie’s courage not to be silent and to oppose the Third Reich during the Second World War. In Croatia, the Center for Civil Courage will not be silent. We will shout. Laws change. Conscience doesn’t. Sophie Scholl is our response to all those who say they did not know or could not act. While her fellow citizens were silent or were conquered by their own cowardliness, she had the courage to oppose the dark political regime of her youth, at the cost of her own life. She is our eternal inspiration in moments of my own doubts and weaknesses. She is our mirror.
Sophie Scholl was a 21-year-old fearless activist of the underground anti-Nazi non-violent student resistance group, the White Rose. She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans and their friend Christopher. As a result, they were executed by guillotine, February 22, 1943.
In the People’s Court before Judge Roland Freisler on 22 February 1943, Scholl was recorded as saying these words:”Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause?”
“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!”
– closing lines of the fourth leaflet
We cooperated with various other organizations on following activities:
- Within the scope of our Sophie Scholl Legacy we participated in the legal team and in the founding of The Women’s Court for the territory of former Yugoslavia. In the early May 2015 we attended and participated in session of Women’s Court held in Sarajevo.
- Within the scope of our Lilith Club and as a legal advisor, our president worked in 2012 on the legislation of a new bill for Assisted reproductive technology (ART) (the previous ART bill was passed under heavy Catholic worldview and was discriminatory; the new Croatian legislation was passed in July 2012)
- Organizing the Zagreb Pride 2012
- The Center of Civil Courage submitted a request to the Constitutional Court to assess the constitutionality of the Croatian Parliament’s decision to call a referendum on the constitutional definition of marriage and also urged the court to suspend that decision. We demanded protection of the Constitution and consider that the Parliament has breached a number of constitutional provisions, pointing out that the Parliament had not consulted with the Constitutional Court prior to calling the referendum.
- Advocacy against the referendum
- We were active members of the secular group “The Voice of Reason – Movement for a secular Croatia”, who has organized in January 2013 a Reason Rally in Croatia
- In December 2014 and June 2016 we had our first and second Humanist Baby Naming.
- We started 2015 by co-organizing Zagreb gathering of solidarity with victims of attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
- Organizing anti-war protests
- 2016 we held the first Humanist Conference in Croatia