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Club works for hope, human rights

Special to Kalamalama by Therese Svensson

Last December, members of Amnesty International at HPU joined with thousands of others across the country to send messages of hope to human rights defenders, prisoners of conscience, and all, around the world, who had been imprisoned solely because of their beliefs, identity, religion, or ethnic origin.


Tables were set up at Fort Street Mall and at the Hawai‘i Loa campus where students could address these holiday messages of hope to prisoners of conscience in Uzbekistan, the United States, Syria, Zimbabwe, and Belarus. Altogether, about 250 cards were sent.

For HPU students, the most popular prisoner of conscience was Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia Castillo, of the Florida (USA) National Guard. Castillo objected to the abuse of Iraqi detainees before that abuse became public, and is now imprisoned because of his stand on the basis of conscience against it.

“ Sending a message of support to a prisoner of conscience gives us an opportunity to use our own freedom and good fortune in the service of others,” said Amnesty International at HPU former President Therese Svensson. “Furthermore, we know from former prisoners who have received cards from AI activists that these simple cards provided them with a powerful ray of hope during their imprisonment,” Svensson said, adding that the club was grateful to Jean Kirschenmann, assistant professor of English as a second language, and her colleagues and students for their help with Human Rights Day.

According to Amnesty International, at least six of the prisoners of conscience featured in the holiday Card Action were subsequently released from prison.


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