Speaking truth to power

I had missed Nottingham Young Quakers meetings for some time and was happy to be attending a meeting on the Wednesday after my final Open University exam. On this evening, young Quakers gathered in the basement due to a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament meeting taking place on the ground floor. Lack of access to the kitchen meant we had a bring and share rather than cooking a meal together which turned out to be a good thing allowing lots of time for the evenings activities. We were pleased to be joined on this occasion by five members from the local branch of human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI).

We began the evening by going around the table introducing ourselves and each sharing something about our week which we were happy about or proud of. After this our guests told us about the work of AI who initially started as network of letter-writers that bombard governments with individual appeals on behalf of prisoners of conscience who’d been jailed or ill-treated in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). They explained that AI has since expanded its activism and now campaigns on a wide range of human rights issues including against torture and the death penalty, in support of refugees, migrants, rights of women, children, LGBT and disabled people as well as around issues of international justice, censorship and free speech. They explained that as well as letter writing amnesty now fund research into human rights abuses, join demonstrations and embrace modern technology with e-campaigning.

Following this our guests shared a stack of ‘calls for action’ which each contained information on people who were being subjected to abuses of their human rights and details of who to send our appeals against these to. Our guests had kindly brought all the supplies we needed and many of us were particularly impressed by the carbon paper which lots of us had never used before. The carbon paper allowed us to write letters in triplicate so that there were copies for key people in power related to each case. I wrote letters regarding an academic who’d been imprisoned following expression of anti-government sentiment on a blog, regarding someone being denied essential medical treatment and regarding people imprisoned for being gay. When we had a break to enjoy the food we took some time to be silent and then discussed the ways in which the work of AI chimes with Quakers commitments to truth, peace, simplicity and equality and how taking part in this letter writing was a way in which we could seek to ‘speak truth to power’.

Following the delicious food, we continued writing letters and in total that evening we wrote 157 letters in relation to human rights abuses in 17 different countries. AI members explained that there is reported to be some positive movement in a significant proportion of cases which amnesty becomes involved with. A.I spoke to us about their annual ‘write for rights’ campaign in which people are encouraged to write letters to law makers/ people in power along with sending cards with messages of support to the victims of human rights abuses, this takes place towards the end of each year with letter writing parties taking place across the country and we asked amnesty to join us again at that time.

Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?”

(Advices & Queries)

Watch this video to see how Amnesty works against discrimination and injustice wherever it occurs!