No one can expect instant success when working for human rights. It's not possible to change the views of governments and entrenched political structures overnight. But this doesn't mean that nothing is ever achieved. Through hard work and persistence success stories do happen.
Sere Brennikov a 78 year old Baptist was arrested in the Soviet Union, in 1976, and charged with "ani-Soviet slander and infringing citizens, persons and rights under the gui„;.• of conducting religious ceremonies." He was sentenced to .5 years in prison. In 1977 he was adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience and an Amnesty group in Derby began to write to the Soviet authorities and publicise his case. A year later, and three years before the end of his sentence Sere Brennikov was released. Five prisoners of conscience who have been adopted by Amnesty are released every week.
Latin America is the focus of a group in Leeds have decided to 'twin' their town with Curico a Chilean town about 200 miles south of Santiago. They are in touch with Fr Theodoro van Grieken and support his work in running food kitchens which feed 380 children a day.
The group also supports a scheme to bring 30 groups, each of between 10 and 15 unemployed families, together to produce simple goods and learn basic skills and the work of an organisation called El Rotto Chileo which is attempting to train new trade union leaders to replace those who have been imprisoned by the government and struggling for the rights of trade unions.
The Leeds group aim not simply to send money to Chile but to develope strong financial and cultural links between the two towns. They are encouraging a wide range of organisations such as theatre groups, schools, trade unions parish and justice and peace groups to get in touch with their counterparts in Chile.
Another group in Leeds, this time a Justice and Peace Group based in the parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are supporting a sister in the Philippines. Sister Mariani Dimaranau co-ordinates a task force who try to make life more bearable for some of the political prisoners held in the 80 camps throughout the Phillipines. Sister Mariana sends cards and pendants made by the prisoners to England. The Leeds group sell them and publicise the injustice of the prisoners situation. The money helps to support both prisoners and their families.
Sometimes human rights issues require concerted action on a national level for example in November 1977 the British Government announced that it intended to sell more than 1850,000 of arms to El Salvador, a country with a notoriously bad human rights record where the lives of many priests have been threatened and where hundreds of people have simply
'disappeared'. Groups throughout Britian protested against the plan, marched, write to their MPs and the newspapers. Questions were asked in the House of Commons and Cardinal Hume wrote to the Prime Minister expressing his concern at the deal. In January 1978 the government announced that it had cancelled the arms sale plan.
Details of Chile "twinning" scheme from Mr John Battle, 6 Norwood Grove, Leeds 6 and of the Philippines scheme from Miss Anne Forbes, 323 Burley Road, Leeds, 4.