Miscellanoeus, Thoughts - Written by on Monday, October 31, 2011 15:25 - 0 Comments

Change the World

Last week I had the privilege of attending a conference organised by Amnesty International.

The Human Rights Conference was held in Brisbane, Australia from the 5th to the 8th of October. Its slogan, ‘Change the World’ doesn’t need much explanation but what does need explanation are those moments experienced where a real sense of individual humanity can really overwhelm you and you start to see what all this ‘WE’ is really about.

I was only able to attend 2 of the 4 days, but I could already get a sense of the energy, hope and faith circulating throughout the conference hall. Towards the end of the last presentation, I could see people’s tired faces after 3 days of intense, thought provoking and controversial conversations but I could also see their feet moving restlessly, their fingers tapping and their eyes gazing intently at Rebiya Kadeer.

A political activist and businesswoman originally from the Xinjiang Automonous Region of the PRC, she got up in front of the microphone, gave everyone in the hall a sweet smile, adjusted her dopa (a hat typical to the dress of the Uyghurs) and began her speech…in Uyghur. The translator began straight after. What a delightful woman, she spoke with such calm, grace and elegance, she told us of her time in jail in China.

Then something that made me realise the power of collective action, she told us that she had been handed an 8 year sentence but was released after 6 years. Something incredibly powerful happened to cause her release, this as she explained, was the result of thousands of postcards to the Chinese government requesting her release as a prisoner of conscience orchestrated by Amnesty International.

These postcards were requesting her release, from all over the world. While I personally haven’t experienced this kind of collective action by people I have never met asking for my release, I could feel the gratitude and almost disbelief she felt for what people had done for her life. People who she had never met, requesting that she be freed.

Both a display of the championing of human rights but also a display of the human spirit.

The conference itself, entitled ‘Change The World’ is an extremely ambitious task but what are we talking about really at the individual level? In trying to tackle the issues of the world, where do you start really? I believe the intention behind these conferences are to keep that spark alive, to showcase individuals or groups that are living and breathing examples of ‘changing the world.’ It is almost obscene that the efforts, while small and perhaps not as profitable, as those individuals or groups that are making differences for the better of the global community almost go unrecognised. People like Rebiya Kedeer, are lights in this world, who have the courage to work towards human rights. We need to recognise these efforts more, positive contributions towards ‘changing the world.’

The conference ended with an excellent commercial celebrating 50 years of Amnesty International but very smartly and creatively demonstrating the light of human rights and the power of the individual in the greater collective….

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