“Freedom for Christmas” was the theme of a November event supporting Amnesty International that had significant youth participation at St. James Anglican church in Morrisburg, Ont., in the diocese of Ottawa.
Seventeen teenagers and 13 adults wrote a total of 69 letters urging freedom, fair trials or improvement in living conditions for prisoners of conscience. One letter went to the High Commissioner of Malaysia after the church heard reports that a group of child refugees from Burma was about to be expelled.
Rev. Craig Bowers was inspired to hold the event after seeing parishioner Bill Rumble introduce Amnesty’s work to teens earlier this year. “It was my desire to use both Amnesty’s work and its symbol, the candle and barbed wire, to teach teens to live into the freedom and hope that is Christ,” said Mr. Bowers.
Mr. Rumble recited stories which involved youth and children who were in danger of imprisonment or physical abuse. One of the causes the youth group discussed was the arrest and alleged torture of three Azerbaijani teenagers for a murder they say they didn’t commit.
“One letter can make a difference when put together with 2,000 others,” said Mr. Rumble.
Kasandra Comfort, 18, said, “It’s rewarding. I feel like I’m helping.” Jacob Hough, 16, added, “Thousands of people send these letters to the same people, expressing the same concerns. And that puts pressure on these people.”
The letters were brought to the altar during Sunday worship by the teenagers and blessed by Mr. Bowers as part of the offering.
While one group was writing letters, another group of teens and adults constructed a four-metre-high Amnesty candle in the front yard of St. James, which remained there until after Christmas.
With files from Alison Dikland