On October 29th, 2009 Siðmennt – the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association held its annual Humanist awards ceremony in Hotel Loftleiðir in Reykjavik.
Siðmennt’s fifth annual Humanist Award was given to the Intercultural Center (Alþjóðahús) which was established in 2001. The main role of this center is to help immigrants adjust to Icelandic society on the one hand, and to help native Icelanders adjust to a changed society. The Intercultural Center is an information center for foreigners and about immigrant issues. People coming to the center are given general and legal advice free of charge. The center offers a wide variety of educational programs and social events. Siðmennt honors the unique and unselfish efforts of the staff and board of the Intercultural Center in the service of humanitarianism, Humanism, and multiculturalism because it is important that foreigners feel well here and are enabled to adjust successfully to Icelandic society. Margrét Steinarsdóttir, the director of the Intercultural Center accepted the award.
Siðmennt also presented its Education and Science Award for important contributions to educating the public in Iceland. This was the second time this award was given, after being introduced last year. The recipient of the Education and Science Award for 2009 was Orri Harðarson a musician and author, for his contribution to critical discussion and information about alcoholism treatment in Iceland. Orri wrote a book called “The Alcoholic Community” (Alkasamfélagið) which was published a year ago but did not get the public discussion it deserved due largely to the collapse of the Icelandic financial system which occurred at the same time. In his book Orri traces the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and claims that the treatment of alcoholism offered by the Icelandic health care system is not professional enough and that pressure of a religious nature is exerted on all patients including those who are not interested in mixing religion with treatment. Such treatment does not appeal to many people and the success rates which are so often touted by AA are greatly exaggerated. Orri points out that there are other more professional approaches, especially when it comes to follow-up. The members of the Siðmennt board consider Orri’s book an important contribution and initiative in the critical examination of Icelandic alcoholism programs. We think Orri has shown great boldness and willingness to improve the present setup.
After the awards were presented, a duo of musician/singers Mamiko Dís Ragnarsdóttir and Hilmar Garðarsson who call themselves “Folklore”, sang two beautiful songs which were very well received.