Ely Writes for Rights - 17 November, 2013
For the last few years, as part of the Amnesty annual Write for Rights Campaign, we have held a card signing event at Ely Cathedral. Details of specified prisoners of conscience are provided and at the end of the Sunday morning service, members of the congregation are invited to sign cards in support of them. This is quite a low key event, but always feels positive and successful. People are keen to take an interest, express their concern and sign the cards.
This year we also had copies of our recipe book ‘A Taste of Freedom’ on sale. They made an attractive addition to the display and we sold a number of copies.
Several people wondered whether the cards they were signing actually reached the prisoners, or indeed had any effect at all. Fortunately we were able to point them to some of the feedback from human rights organizations and individuals, which we had included in the display for the first time this year:
Jenni Williams National Co-ordinator WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe arise)
‘Amnesty members have spoken for us when we could not speak. They have helped send a clear message to the individuals and institutions that oppress us to respect human rights and those human rights are human rights.’
WOZA was formed in 2003 to provide women with a united voice against the social, economic and human rights conditions in Zimbabwe. Since then, WOZA members have been arrested, harassed and severely beaten by the police on many occasions simply for exercising their right to peaceful protest.
COFADEH (Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras)
‘Dear Amnesty International friends, we have received beautiful cards and letters through the post with messages for COFADEH’S 30th anniversary…Thank you so much, we feel truly accompanied by wonderful people like you.’
COFADEH is one of Honduras’ main human rights organizations. Its work includes seeking justice for current human rights abuses by the security forces and ‘disappearances’ in the 1980s and training local human rights activists. Staff members are at great risk and since 2011 the number and severity of incidents against them has intensified, with death threats, harassment and attacks.
And in early December, came the news that Yorm Bopha, one of those highlighted cases for this year, had been released from prison in Cambodia. Yorm had led a peaceful protest to mark the anniversary of a forced eviction in her community in which thousands of homes had been destroyed. She was arrested and imprisoned for three years on charges for which no credible evidence could be found.
That she has now been released is perhaps the clearest indication that international pressure can work and all those cards and letters can play a part.
Every Valentine’s day, members of WOZA hand out roses with a message:
‘The power of love can conquer the love of power’