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Fredonia Shakespeare Club hears paper: Nobel Peace Prize 1977

Submitted Photo Shakespeare Club Member Nicki Schoenl shared a paper on Amnesty International, the 1977 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The 14th meeting of the Fredonia Shakespeare Club, held on Feb. 6, was hosted by Priscilla Bernatz. President Lucille Richardson welcomed 13 members.

Bernatz read the minutes from the Jan. 30 meeting. The minutes were approved as written.

The club’s area of study this year is Nobel Prize winners. Nicki Schoenl read her paper “Nobel Peace Prize 1977,” which is summarized as follows:

Amnesty International won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. In the award presentation speech, the Nobel committee cited the impressive results Amnesty International had achieved during its “prisoner of conscience” campaign. Of the 6,000 prisoners of conscience Amnesty International had “adopted” between 1972-1975, 3,000 had been released. The committee declared that the defense of human dignity against torture, violence, and degradation was a real contribution that Amnesty International had made towards peace in our world.

Amnesty International is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, and passed by the United Nations in 1948. It was adopted in response to the barbaric acts which outraged the conscience of mankind during the Second World War. This document set out, for the first time, the basic human rights and freedoms to which all human beings are entitled no matter who they are or where they live.

Amnesty International began in 1961 with one man’s outrage and courage to do something about it. The man was a British lawyer named Peter Benenson. Benenson’s imagination was fired when he read about two Portuguese students, in Portugal, who had been arrested and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom.

With the help of a prominent Quaker, Eric Baker, and a famous international lawyer, Louis Blom-Cooper, the campaign called “Appeal for Amnesty 1961” began. Benenson published an article called “The Forgotten Prisoners” which appeared on the front page of an influential London paper. The article focused on six political prisoners from different parts of the world. The prisoners included a doctor from Angola, a Romanian philosopher, a Greek trade unionist, an American minister from Louisiana, Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary and the Archbishop of Prague, Josef Beran.

The day after Benenson’s article appeared in the London paper, newspapers throughout the world picked it up. The reaction was overwhelming. A flood of letters and donations poured in along with information about thousands of other prisoners of conscience.

Over the past 60 years, Amnesty International has become a global organization with more than 8 million supporters and 2 million members. In the field of human rights organizations it has the third longest history and is the largest in size. Amnesty is a non-profit, independent, politically impartial, grassroots movement. Much of Amnesty’s work is done by its network of volunteers, in over 150 countries and territories, who wage peace in many different kinds of ways. They investigate and expose facts wherever human rights abuses happen. Amnesty lobbies governments and companies making sure they keep their promises and respect international laws. Amnesty’s role as an independent watchdog has improved conditions of people in places that were once havens of oppression. Amnesty’s most important achievements can be measured in human lives — lives saved, prisoners released and threats averted.

Karin Cockram assisted at the tea table.

The next meeting of the club will be hosted by Linda Dunn. Michele Starwalt will read her paper, “Nobel Peace Prize 1979.”

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