Prisoners of Conscience

Everyone has a right to practice their faith. Belonging to a religious group and practicing a faith is a fundamental right, and something which is important to millions of people globally. However, Christians globally face persecution for simply for their faith.

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that:

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions. (1)

Additionally, the work done by Action for Christians Against Torture (ACAT) which involves campaigning, praying, and lobbying governments where torture is practiced, run different events for churches to get involved in. The Christmas Post Card campaign is one of them (2). Each year, they do a Greeting Card Campaign, where people can send post cards to Christians who are in prison for their faith (3). 

I was invited by Sister Eleanor from my local Parish to help with doing a Greeting Card Campaign, which became known as the ‘Prisoners of Conscience’ event, which was held on Saturday 14th December at my church.

At the convent, she went through everything with me, and what the event was about. She had a couple hundred post cards, a list of Christians who have been persecuted, with some information about who they are, the countries they are from, and what they have experienced.

There was a document with non-religious messages of encouragement (if a religious message was sent, i.e. God bless you/You’re in my prayers/ even Merry Christmas, it would have caused further harm to the Christians we were writing to), and stamps with the individual addresses of the prisons on, so that the post cards could be posted immediately. 

Myself and Sister Eleanor went through all the stories of the Christians sent through from ACAT, and we selected 7 names, so that people could choose who to write to. The Christians we selected came from a range of countries, such as Belarus, Iran, and Egypt.

Not all of the individuals we selected were of Christian faith, however. Some had been imprisoned for upholding human rights and advocating for others. Some were imprisoned and had been tortured for and criticizing their governments for mistreating citizens. 

On December 14th, I helped Sister Eleanor with setting up the table at the church, getting the display ready, and encouraging people to write a postcard to someone of their choice. People were very moved by the stories of the Christians we were writing to, and wanted to write to all of them, showing their love and support. Each individual we were writing to had their image and story on the table with some post cards, ready to be put in a pot once they had been signed. This was so that we could keep track of how many post cards each one was going to receive. 

It was very well recieved by members of the parish, and as always, I am amazed by the love and support shown for our brothers and sisters globally ❤ 

CountriesTableMessages

Other articles in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protect people from some of the abuses highlighted above, as well as protect the rights of people of faith. These are: 

Article 2                                                                                                                                                1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Article 9                                                                                                                                                    1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.

2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.

3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.

4. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.

5. Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

Article 10                                                                                                                                              1. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

Article 18                                                                                                                                               1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

 

 

References

(1) Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights Available online at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx  Accessed on 20/12/2019

(2) Action for Christians Against Torture (ACAT) Home Page and Info Available online at: https://www.acatuk.org.uk   Accessed on 20/12/2019

(3) ACAT Greeting Card Campaign, 2019-2020  Available online at: https://www.acatuk.org.uk/copy-of-prayer-vigil-july-2017  Accessed on 20/12/2019 

One thought on “Prisoners of Conscience

  1. Pingback: When I grow up what will I be? « Thoughts from the criminology team

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