It is a tradition of our church on the first Sunday of Advent to focus on some of the people that Amnesty International are seeking justice for.
This year we featured three people and members of the congregation were invited to sign a card to send to each person and also to sign a letter to a person or persons in authority requesting that the imprisoned person be released, or their case looked at again.
Readings: Psalm 122; Matthew 25:31-46
IRAN Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport. She was about to fly home to the UK with her two-year- old daughter, Gabriella, following a family visit. Nazanin was allowed to leave Gabriella with her parents, but the toddler’s British passport was confiscated.
Since then Nazanin has been allowed only very restricted visits from her family, subjected to solitary confinement, and accused of plotting the ‘soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic’. She may have been coerced into making a ‘confession’.
Nazanin’s family said she was sentenced to five years in prison on unspecified ‘national security-related charges’ on 6 September.
Amnesty does not believe she received a fair trial.
JAPAN Matsumoto Kenji
In 1993 Matsumoto Kenji – along with his older brother – was arrested and charged with a double murder in Japan. Kenji has an IQ of between 60 and 70, allegedly caused by Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) which was common in the prefecture in which he was born. As a result of the condition Kenji suffered from seriously hampered cognitive function.
Upon learning of a warrant being issued for his arrest, his brother killed himself and Kenji was left to face trial alone.
During his trial it was accepted by the court that he was totally dependent upon his brother and was unable to stand up to him. Following his conviction he was sentenced to death, a sentence which has been repeatedly upheld in subsequent appeals.
Under international laws around use of the death penalty, it is illegal to execute someone with serious mental or intellectual disabilities.
BRAZIL Jorge Lazaro Samba Nunes dos Santos.
Two sons murdered. A third son shot.
No one brought to justice. A family torn apart by Brazil’s culture of violence.
It’s hard to imagine a more heartbreaking story than that of Jorge Lazaro Samba Nunes dos Santos. His family has been devastated by what some commentators refer to as an ‘extermination’ of black youth in Brazil.
In 2008, Jorge’s eldest son, Ricardo Mattos, was shot dead by military police in Salvador while playing football with his friends.
In 2013, Enio, Jorge’s younger son, was abducted from his home and killed.
And on 10 July, a third of Jorge’s sons, 18-year-old Denilson, was shot whilst walking home. Luckily Denilson survived and is now recovering.
Sadly, violent acts targeting young men in Brazil are all-too common.
Despite Jorge’s continual quest for justice since the death of his first two sons, no one has been brought to trial for either of their deaths. Where police officers are involved, witnesses are afraid to give testimony. Add to that institutional racism… When a young black man is killed, it is hard to find answers in Brazil.
We were given more detailed information on each of the above cases by members of our Justice and Peace group and we also received this good news!
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala
Congolese activists Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala have been freed.
A massive thank you to the 170,000 of you who
stood up for Fred and Yves and demanded their release. Your solidarity and activism kept hope alive for the many youth activists at LUCHA
“I am happy to finally be free after more than 17 months of imprisonment,” said Fred. “I thank Amnesty International and all those who fought in one way or another for my release. I look forward to seeing my family and friends to continue the fight for democracy and freedom in my country.”
This good news was followed by a time of prayer.
Jesus said “I am the bread of life”
Dear Lord wherever we are in the world we will find some type of bread to find nourishment; baguettes, ciabatta and pitta bread, different kinds like your many different types of peoples. Everybody deserves access to food to feed the body.
There are many charities that are trying to provide people with this basic need.
Help us to decide how we can best support any of these charities either through church or by own choice.
Jesus also used bread at the last supper which he shared with his friends.
Let us share bread with those we meet.
Heed my words all ye people listen to my cry for help.
He also said “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Heed my words all ye people. Listen to my cry for help.
In the afternoon, as I trudge along a dusty road in search of safety and rest.
We all travel on a journey through life, for many people that road can be a very difficult.
Trying to leave your country to find freedom and safety.
Sometimes to flee religious persecution or political persecution.
Some are trying to find the truth about a situation.
Amnesty is trying to fight cases which are deemed unfair
We think and pray for those whose names we have heard today.
Jesus showed us the way to make a better world.
Let us walk this road.
Try and understand all ye people my confusion at the empty words I hear,
my anger at the fine speeches and empty promises that we may have a better future.
We also pray for our church and church family.
All the words we have heard today have an impact on us.
It helps us to think how we can make things better.
Let us be good stewards of our time and money.
Sometimes a smile, talking or listening to someone or passing on a kindness makes someone’s day.
We may never know what impact that may make, but trust that it will be sprinkled with your love.
Give me hope all ye people that I may have a better future said the refugee.
And now we join in saying the Lord’s Prayer