On International Human Rights Day, December 10th, Amnesty International will mark its 55th anniversary of working for human rights globally. Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International, was outraged when he heard that two students were thrown into jail for raising a toast to freedom. He decided, 55 years ago, that he would publish a story, “The Forgotten Prisoners” about the students. In his story, he urged others to write letters on their behalf–to use our freedom to free others. By using the power of the pen, Benenson encouraged all of us to speak for those who have no voice. The idea caught on. Starting with a small group of people, Amnesty International now has more than seven million members, who consistently strive to protect human rights.
In conjunction with Amnesty’s 55th anniversary, thousands of Canadians will join their neighbours, work mates, fellow citizens to protect those whose human rights are being violated by participating in Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights campaign. In 2016, worldwide 4.6 million letters were written to 10 governments about 10 individuals or communities at risk.
Canadians who participate in Write for Rights love the sense of solidarity; of being a part of a global movement; of people who care enough to write letter, do on-line actions, sign petitions, and send tweets about human rights. The act of participating in Write for Rights can help a person reclaim their freedom. Letters can demand justice for survivors of torture. They can give hope to individuals at risk.
During 2016 Write for Rights, one case was for a young girl in Malawi. Annie Alfred was born with albinism. Some people believe her body has magic powers, so she and others like her risk being hunted and killed. Since Write for Rights began, the government has launched a handbook to better help investigators deal with offences committed against people with albinism. A government agency has also begun buying sunscreen for distribution through medical institutions.
As part of this global Write for Rights campaign, Group 82, will be visiting the local school in Thornbury, Collingwood and Meaford. Students will participate in the 2017 Write for Rights campaign. We invite you to participate as well by registering at www.writeathon.ca. There are 11 cases this year to select from to participate in working towards justice. One case is about an injustice in Jamaica. Jamaican police murdered Shackelia Jackson’s brother. That event prompted her to begin a campaign to end police violence. This case highlights the need for accountability from officers for their actions and call for for Shackelia to be protected from intimidation and attack as she seeks justice.
Celebrate 55 years of defending human rights and take a few minutes to help someone half a world away or closer to home. When asked why they participated in Write for Rights, one person said, “To defend those that can’t defend themselves.” Join us in participating in the 2017 Write for Rights campaign–you can make a difference.
Visit www.writeathon.ca for more information.