Sunday, February 04, 2007
How a Catholic Convert founded Amnesty International
In 1961, Portugal was being run by a dictator named António de Oliveira Salazar. Freedoms were stiffled, and the country was run as a dictatorship. A group of students in the city of Coimbra lifted their glasses in a toast to freedom in Portugal. They were found in the cafe, and put into prison for this act, and spent 7 years there. Fortunately for the world, Peter Benenson heard this news, and decided he must do something.
Peter Benenson was a lawyer by trade, who became quite ill. He went to Italy to regain his health, and while there, converted to the Catholic faith. While in Italy, Benenson decided it was necessary to start an International organization which was open to everyone. While in the tube in London, Benenson read an article about the Portuguese students mentioned above. He was outraged and wrote a letter to a newspaper called the Observer. He asked people to write letters concerning this injustice. The letters came in fast and furious, so much so, that Benenson started an organization known as Amnesty International.
Today, Amnesty International is the largest organization dedicated to helping those who are unjustly imprisoned, as political or ideological prisoners. It has been very active and successful in this endeavor so far. It has 1.8 million members worldwide who put pressure on foreign governments to release people who should not be in prison, as well as to end torture and abuse.
The work of Amnesty International cannot be overstated. This vast and strong organization came about because of Peter Benenson's, who unfortunately died in 2005 at the age of 83, conversion to Christ and His Church.