Standard-bearer for humanism, tireless civil rights campaigner Ramon Casha, passes away

‘Honest free-thinker’ Ramon Casha, chair of the Malta Humanists Association, passes away

Ramon Casha: ‘altruistic humanist who worked tirelessly for the good of the Maltese society’
Ramon Casha: ‘altruistic humanist who worked tirelessly for the good of the Maltese society’

One of Malta’s foremost civil society activists, Ramon Casha, has passed away.

Casha, 47, was said to have died from medical complications at Mater Dei Hospital. He had been readmitted to hospital following injuries he incurred in a motorcycle accident back in July 2016.

He was the chairperson of the Malta Humanists Association (MHA), the first such organisation of its kind in Malta, and a vocal defender of secularism in various public fora both online and offline. The association described his loss as that of a valued voice in the Maltese free-thinking community, who respected for his honesty and intellectual integrity, qualities also recognized by individuals who disagreed with him.

An IT specialist by profession, Casha was a remarkable activist who lent his voice to campaigners everywhere he could, notably during the 2011 divorce referendum in favour of divorce, in the 2015 referendum in favour of the abolition of hunting in spring, and also in favour of gay rights.

Casha believed in putting forward the MHA’s contribution to society, and in December 2016 he presented donations of almost €1,000 to homeless shelter Dar Merhba Bik and cancer support group Hospice Malta.

He was pleased to note that in 2016, Malta had outlawed ‘gay conversion’ therapy, and witnessed advances in civil rights with the passing of the gender identity law  and the presentation of the Equality Act.

“However I feel that the most momentous change came about thanks to the efforts of a number of Maltese women to get the ‘morning-after pill’ legalised. This went far beyond the MAP itself – it saw many thousands of women mobilising in the face of discrimination, making their demands and refusing to back down. As more and more women started speaking out publicly, this encouraged more women to join in and speak up,” Casha noted in an end-of-year post on the MHA’s Facebook page.

That same year, Casha had the pleasure of hosting representatives of national humanist organisations from all around the world in Malta to hold the annual general assemblies of the European and International parent organisations the EHF and IHEU.

In a statement, the MHA said Casha was a generous philanthropist, a committed social activist, an invaluable contributor to informed public debate, a tireless champion of secularism, and a voice of reason who would be sorely missed. “Few have done more than Ramon to further the cause of secularism locally. One of the founding members of the association, he was a most energetic and committed contributor by far. As Chairperson (and earlier as Deputy Chairperson) he worked towards the creation of an Ethics Programme in the National Curriculum, and to establish a humanist celebrant service – the first initiative of its kind in Malta. Ramon himself celebrated the first humanist ceremony, a wedding.”

The MHA said Casha actively supported the introduction of divorce, same-sex unions and emergency contraception, long before such views became mainstream. “Often he was the lone voice of reason in a cacophony of extremism on the subject of female reproductive rights. He also provided valid contribution in the local discussion on LGBTQI equality, an area where Malta now ranks first in Europe.”

Michael Briguglio, sociologist and a former Green Party chairperson, said Casha was “honest, free-thinking and a non-partisan civil society campaigner.”

The Women's Righst Foundation paid trubute to Casha: “You are and will always be remembered for your support, veracious voice and relentless energy to fight for human rights, inclusive of women's rights.”

Activist Nighat Urphani described Casha as “an altruistic humanist who worked tirelessly for the good of the Maltese society.”

Another friend, Russell Sammut, said on Facebook: “Thank you for everything Ramon, you always were supportive, spoke for minorities and fought for others... Big loss for Malta, my deepest sympathy to your family.”