Would you send a letter to save a life?

Here’s a striking video from Amnesty, just launched today, promoting our global Write for Rights campaign.

Over the next few weeks we’re asking people to put pen to paper and write a letter or send a card to a prisoner of conscience or other individual at risk of human rights violation somewhere in the world.

Of course, Amnesty International supporters have been writing letters like this for fifty years. It’s how we started and it’s just one of the ways we are celebrating our birthday.

We know that letters and cards can and do make a difference. That president or police chief will receive many letters, not just one, and the pressure of many people writing together is what can make the impact.

One of the most moving experiences in my years with Amnesty was meeting one of the Ogoni 19 prisoners, whose cases had been adopted by Amnesty, and who had been on the receiving end of Amnesty letter-writers. The group had been jailed as a result of their campaign against despoliation of the environment by Shell Oil and human rights violations by the Nigerian Government (by the way, Shell are still shirking their responsibilities in Nigeria). Some, such as their leader Ken Saro Wiwa, were taken out to the prison yard and hanged. Others awaited their grim fate behind bars…

That he had survived to tell the tale was, in no small measure, he said, because of all the people who had written him letters and cards of support. That was why he had travelled the long journey from Nigeria to Northern Ireland – to thank the letter-writers and the card-senders, to tell them how much it had meant to receive such messages of hope in the post from never-before-heard-of places like Dungannon and Downpatrick, and to encourage them to keep up their efforts on behalf of others still in need of support.

So, can I ask you all, to take five minutes out of your day and write an old-fashioned letter?

It doesn’t have to be long. Just heartfelt, human to human. Cases and address details can be found here. Maybe you can encourage some colleagues at work or school, or your friends and family, to join you in this letter-writing effort.

If you want to make an event of it, get yourself down to the Black Box in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter from 1 – 5pm on Saturday 10th December, Human Rights Day. We’ll have lots of campaign information, greetings cards and writing paper, some festive music and maybe even a few Christmas goodies and gifts.

Who knows? Amidst the Christmas rush, you might just save a life.