Sunday, February 27, 2005

Peter Benenson, 1921-2005

The founder of Amnesty International, Peter Benenson, has died. There are two appreciations by Antony Barnett in today's Observer, the paper where Benenson first articulated the need for a human rights organisation:

Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government. The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust all over the world could be united into common action, something effective could be done.
Benenson was a principled and doughty fighter for justice. He had this to say about the symbolism of the candle which became Amnesty's signature:

I have lit this candle, in the words of Shakespeare, 'against oblivion' – so that the forgotten prisoners should always be remembered. We work in Amnesty against oblivion.
And this:

When I first lit the Amnesty candle, I had in mind the old Chinese proverb: 'Better light a candle than curse the darkness'.


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