Today is International Human Rights Day, the day the Nobel Prizes are awarded and the day Amnesty International (1977 Nobel Peace Prize recipient) urges people around the world to write letters on behalf of victims of human rights abuses around the world. Amnesty International is also celebrating it's 50th anniversary this year and the video above gives a capsule history. The highlight for our Loyal Readers will be the cameo of Kim Song-Man, the South Korean prisoner of conscience testifying to the importance of these letter-writing campaigns for those languishing in 'forgotten' prisons. We read about the many faceted campaign on the part of Amnesty activists in Normal, Illinois to free him in Enduring the Darkness : A Story of Conscience, Hope, and Triumph : Letters from Kim Song-Man, an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience. To learn more about Amnesty's history, explore AIUSA's Amnesty at 50 section or these articles from the Guardian. I especially want to recommend England's Children's Book Laureate Michael Morpurgo's piece, where he imagines how literature could make Amnesty's letter-writing campaigns obsolete and which is as good a justification for Rights Readers existence as any,
It is through literature, not simply literacy, that we learn to understand and empathise. As readers, we learn about the lives of others, other places and cultures, other ways of seeing the world. We find out about the past, understand better how it made our today and how our today makes our tomorrow. We learn we are not alone in our feelings, that joy and pain are universal, that humanity is to be celebrated for its diversity but is ultimately one humanity. Through literature, we can find our place in the world, feel we belong and discover our sense of responsibility.
Amnesty understands this very well and it seeks out, encourages and endorses literature that it believes can help children develop this great skill of empathy, a skill that is vital for tolerance to grow, hatred to diminish and human rights to flourish.And as you can see from the cover of his latest book, Shadow, about a springer spaniel in Afghanistan, what better place to start to build empathy than with a dog? I have a special springer in my life, so I will definitely be tracking this one down. So after you've participated in your local Write for Rights event, and checked out the global Flickr pool of others participating in the the marathon, pick up a book and Read for Rights!