St Mary Magdalene † St Bartholomew † St Alban †
Sunday 5th June 2011
‘AMNESTY’ 50 YEARS ON
Fifty years ago, two Portuguese students found themselves in prison for toasting freedom in a country under the control of an authoritarian and repressive government. Appalled at their experience, a British lawyer, Peter Benenson wrote to the Observer newspaper, and launched an ‘Appeal for Amnesty’.
His article touched a nerve, and an international movement was born, dedicated to defending freedom of opinion and religion, and pledged to support prisoners of conscience throughout the world.
Six prisoners were identified in that first article, a philosopher, a poet, a trade unionist, an American minister campaigning against race segregation, and a cardinal and an archbishop from Hungary and Czechoslovakia respectively: all eventually won their freedom, with Amnesty playing a major part in highlighting the injustice which they suffered.
The work of Amnesty International has changed over the years, and sometimes their decisions, the causes they have chosen to champion, have been controversial. But listening to the current Secretary General speaking this week , I was reminded of the continuing need for their work, in the places of conflict and repression of our own time. And I was reminded, too, that where there is injustice and corruption, it is the poorest who suffer most.
Over the years, churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques have used the stories and the resources offered by Amnesty and in the support they have given to its work they have shown how the ‘golden rule’ of love of neighbour runs through the teaching of so many faiths.
I pray for a world where that work will no longer be needed; but until that time, I shall continue to support Amnesty. If you would like to do so too, find out more at www.amnesty.org.uk