Calling the Nations to Account
Amnesty International Day is on 28 May
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our understanding of the work of Amnesty International.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and three readers.
- More information about Amnesty International UK’s current projects is available at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/
- The Bible readings and paraphrases are from Exodus 20.13-17; Proverbs 14.31, 22.16 and 31.8-9; Amos 2.6b-7; and Luke 4.18-19.
Leader: If we were drawing up a blueprint for the perfect nation, what kind of values, laws and expectations would we include? The Old Testament part of the Bible, which is shared by Christians and Jews, shows us many examples of guidelines that God chose.
Reader 1: It starts with the Ten Commandments. There was to be no murder or unfaithfulness in marriage. Stealing wasn’t allowed, nor was it right to make up lies about other people. People were expected to be satisfied with what they had rather than longing for what belonged to others.
Leader: God’s list of priorities continued, including advice given in the form of proverbs like these.
Reader 2: ‘Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.’
Reader 3: ‘Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.’
Reader 1: ‘Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honours him.’
Leader: When the Israelites ignored these guidelines, God was powerful in his criticism.
Reader 2: For instance, the prophet Amos declared, ‘They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.’
Leader: Finally, in the New Testament, Jesus sums it all up in what could be God’s mission statement.
Reader 3: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
Time for reflection
Leader: So, what do these guidelines say to the nations of today’s world? Every day, we hear and see stories of poverty, injustice, oppression and unlawful imprisonment across the globe. One organization whose task is to highlight such human rights issues is Amnesty International, and 28 May is their special day.
For more than 50 years, Amnesty International have been defending the fundamental rights and freedoms that belong to every one of us. They haven’t invented these human rights themselves. They are found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was agreed by representatives of the United Nations in 1948, in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Let’s take a look at the kind of situations that Amnesty International get involved with.
Reader 1: They work among migrants, refugees and asylum seekers around the world, ensuring that they have full access to social, educational and legal support as they find a home in a new community. The expulsion of the Rohingya people from Myanmar and of refugees from France and Italy would be examples.
Reader 2: They publicize individuals who are experiencing imprisonment, torture or even death because of their political beliefs, religion or lifestyle. Supporters are encouraged to write to the governments involved, requesting the release of these people. At present, letters are being sent to the governments of Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Israel among others. Happily, this kind of pressure has resulted in the release of many.
Reader 3: One of the biggest changes that Amnesty International is working towards is the abolition of the death penalty in countries such as the USA, China and South Korea. This is because the death penalty is seen as the ultimate denial of human rights.
Leader: You’re probably wondering what Amnesty International seek to gain from their work. They are not linked to any political party, religious group or social class. They are totally independent and ready to publicize stories that are happening both around the world and also within the UK. In fact, their only reward has been receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, which shows how highly many people regard their work.
If we care about human rights issues, it’s easy to get involved. All it takes is the ability to write a letter in support of a specific person. All the information you need is on Amnesty International’s website. Meanwhile, let’s take care of each other’s human rights here in school. That means no prejudice, no bullying and no taking advantage of status or intelligence; instead, it requires a lot of listening to one another.
Thank you for the freedoms that we enjoy in this country.
Remind us of these whenever we hear or see injustice.
‘Get up stand up’ by Bob Marley, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg97JiBn1kE (4.10 minutes long)