UK: Archbishop of Canterbury speaks out for African clergyman imprisoned for peaceful political views

In an article in this week’s New Statesman, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams adds his voice to an Amnesty International appeal for Reverend Bienvenido Samba Momessori, a clergyman imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea for his peaceful political views.

He implores people to take action to free Reverend Samba by going to

The Archbishop attacks “the ongoing scandal of imprisonment without trial as a sanction against peaceful dissidents or ethnic minorities,” and adds: “To let this go unchallenged in any area is to sell the pass for universal justice. And that is not an option for any religious person, or indeed anyone who thinks human dignities and liberties are more than a local arrangement for the convenience of the prosperous.”

“Religious leaders are often among those caught in the tension between ethnic groups and arbitrary national administrations, from the old South Africa to East Timor…They deserve support from believers and unbelievers alike.

“The energy for political liberation and the health of civil society depends massively on the churches in a great number of divided and deprived nations.

“My own faith drives me to speak out on “political” issues and I can do so in safety. Sadly for some this is not the case.”

Reverend Samba, pastor of the Church of Cherubs and Seraphs, was arrested on 26 October 2003. He is being held in Evinayong Prison in Equatorial Guinea without charge or trial. Conditions are harsh: provision of food remains inadequate in all prisons in Equatorial Guinea Amnesty International believes he was arrested solely on grounds of his known, peaceful political opinions and ethnic origin, and considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

The organisation, together with Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams, is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Like so many others around the world, Reverend Samba has been thrown in jail just for speaking out about what he feels is right.

“We hope that people in the UK will do the same and speak out for him. Reverend Samba should be released immediately.”

The article is part of a monthly New Statesman column in association with Amnesty International called It Could Have Been Me, in which well-known UK figures profile Amnesty cases. In previous columns Anita Roddick has written about the persecuted Chinese businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer, Clive Anderson has profiled imprisoned Iranian lawyer Nasser Zarafshan and Jenni Murray interviewed Marielos Monzon, a radio DJ in Guatemala who has received death threats for exposing human rights stories.

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