“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”

 “We need organisations and people like you who will let the killers know that the entire world sees their actions…They fall under siege when organisations like Amnesty International take action”

 – Bertha Oliva de Nativi, coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras

Is it really worth all the money, time, paper, effort and in the case of the street theatres, carbon emissions, to send hundreds or even thousands of letters and petitions, during certain campaigns in our school? Isn’t it hopelessly optimistic and naive to believe that our letters could cause any change to things that seem completely out of our sphere of influence? Might it be that all these actions could simply be actions just for the sake of being active? That they ignore the question of whether anything is actually achieved or improved, and instead are done to salve our own consciences in order to be able to go to bed after a long day writing letters to some vice president in Sudan, feeling good about having  performed a good deed that day? Some people might argue that as long as street theatres, or collecting signatures for human rights’ causes, make people more aware of problems in the world, then they are worth being done. However, I do not entirely agree with that. Educating the public in Cardiff and making ourselves more aware about problems is certainly very important.  In relation to us, it (arguably) even shapes the future, but it isn’t sufficient reason, considering all the money that could be spent on more beneficial things than paper for letters and signature lists. If this was the only thing achieved by such actions, other cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternatives could be done to become more “aware”, such as having a debate or simply reading a book. BUT, despite all the criticism thrust on us, demonstrations, petitions and letters sent to governments are effective. It may seem a utopian and idealistic thing to believe, that the average citizen still has the power to change things, simply by expressing her or his disapproval by signing a piece of paper. However, we actually do have a certain amount of power over our governments and the people ruling the world. Especially since these ‘High and Mighties’ are still, at least partly, dependent on our support and approval. Governments therefore do react to international pressure. Thus campaigns have been successful in improving the conditions of prisoners of conscience or advocating the adoption of resolutions concerning torture, asylum seekers rights etc. This is certainly not achieved easily and surely not every “write a letter to this government and this minister” action will be successful, but the records of achievements indicate that it is worth trying. And I think we should.

Nabila Abdel Aziz (Germany/Egypt/Austria, AC06-08)

More Information about Amnesty International

– United World College Student Magazine –    


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