AN ANNUAL campaign to send out thousands of Christmas cards to
persecuted Christians, human-rights campaigners, and victims of
torture in prisons around the world is under way, and is "more
important than ever", the organisation behind it says.
The charity Action by Christians Against Torture (ACAT) has been
sending cards each Christmas for more than 30 years - most of the
time never even knowing whether the card was received by the
prisoner for whom it was intended.
Margaret Russell, who chairs ACAT, said that the charity spent a
long time researching who was in need of support, and how to get
the cards to them.
"Some of them we send cards to, Christmas after Christmas: they
are familiar names, but others are new. We have noticed that more
and more, in recent years, are going out to persecuted Christians
in some Islamic countries.
"For some prisoners, we have to ask senders not to send a
religious card, as we don't want to make the situation worse for
them. Most of the time we hear nothing back, and we have no idea if
they have got through or not; but it feels more important than ever
now to keep going.
"The cards show the prisoner that they aren't forgotten - and
they show his or her jailers that, too. We have heard of one man
who, when he was released, came to visit the person who had sent
him cards each year, and showed him how each year, as a card
arrived, his living conditions improved, little by little, until
eventually he was freed.
"It's a real, tangible thing we can do in this country for
someone else. It shows people who have been shut away, in many
cases for years, that somebody, somewhere, cares."
Human-rights groups on the list for cards include the All
Pakistan Minorities Alliance, which represents religious minorities
in Pakistan, and the group Women of Zimbabwe Arise.
Prisoners on the list for cards include a British national in
Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer, who was detained in Afghanistan in
2002; a Christian teacher, Johan Teterissa, in prison in Indonesia
after raising a nationalistic flag during a demonstration; a Muslim
human-rights campaigner, Kya Hal Aung, in jail in Burma; and a
Church of Iran pastor, Bahnam Irani, who has been in prison since
2011, and faces the death penalty for "spreading corruption on
The Christmas greeting-card list for 2014 is available on the
ACAT website. www.acatuk.org.uk