Wednesday, March 08, 2006

(77) Terry Waite´s speech, Amnesty International and composing books in Bedford

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s special envoy, Terry Waite, was released in mid-November 1991 by captors who had held him hostage in Kuwait for nearly five years.

In a much-televised speech Waite had spoken of the boost to his spirits that he had received when a postcard from a well-wisher had somehow gotten through to him.

On November 24th 1991 Amnesty International used Waite’s words in an advert in The Mail On Sunday.
I copied this out and stuck it into my diary.

It read -

"I’ll tell you a small story which I told in Damascus. I was kept in total and complete isolation for four years. I saw no-one and spoke to no-one apart from a cursory word with my guards when they brought the food. And one day out of the blue a guard came with a postcard. It was a postcard showing a stained glass window from Bedford showing Bunyan in jail. "... And I turned the card over and there was a message from someone I didn’t know simply saying ‘We remember, we shall not forget. We shall continue to pray for you and to work for all people who are detained around the world.’ "That thought sent me back to the marvellous work of agencies like Amnesty International and their letter writing campaigns, and I would say: never despise these simple actions. Something, somewhere will get through to the people you are concerned about as it got through to me... "

At 9:03 p.m. on November 24th 1991 I was taping this extract into my diary.
In the background on TV a programme called Prisoners of Conscience had just ended. This had lasted for five minutes and had been presented by Ludovic Kennedy.

It was a review of the previous year’s series of programmes and spoke of how each of them had been dedicated to the review of the plight of a prisoner, somewhere in the world, who was being detained immorally and improperly.
Many had been moved to write letters of support and protest for the prisoners and, Kennedy reported, some were now freed.

The series was backed by Amnesty International and addresses to write to were provided at the end of each programme.

The TV programme following on was called Did You See? (see Entry 24).

For many years it had been presented by Ludovic Kennedy himself, but his place as presenter had recently been taken by Jeremy Paxman.
Paxman began by saying that the finest TV performance of the week had come not from an actor but from a man who had been imprisoned for five years.

Then, as I was continuing the placing of the Waite quote into my diary, it was broadcast.

Waite said how he thought that Bunyan was a lucky chap to have a window and writing implements, when he had neither.

Earlier that year I had joined Amnesty International.

I was watching this from my mother’s home, in Bedford.

It was only in November 2008 that I discovered that the card had been sent by someone from Bedford.

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