Amnesty International marks 50 years of fighting for free speech

From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/29/amnesty-international-marks-50th-birthday

Amnesty International: campaigning organisation started by Peter Benenson to free prisoners of conscience celebrates evolution from first protest

Tracy McVeigh
The Observer, Sunday 29 May 2011

When she was young, Manya Benenson’s dad told her a story of two frogs that fall into a bucket of cream and swim around and around. The first one gives up and drowns, the second keeps going until he finds his struggles have churned the cream to butter, and he climbs out. As a fable, she said, it could sum up the movement that the late Peter Benenson began in the Observer 50 years ago this weekend.

It was a day for sentiment and inspirational stories yesterday, as Amnesty International celebrated its birthday with an event at St Martins in the Fields in central London. The celebration was held at the same Trafalgar Square church where Benenson, a bowler-hatted barrister, slipped away from work in 1961 and sat alone to dream up what has become the world’s most renowned human rights organisation.

He had been enraged by reading a newspaper account of the arrest in Portugal of two students, whose crime had been to raise a toast to freedom. Benenson died in 2005 and yesterday his daughter Manya, 35, lit the Amnesty candle, symbolically ringed by barbed wire, in his memory, along with Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, a Burmese refugee whose father is serving a 65-year jail sentence for organising peaceful protests against the military junta in 2007.

“I don’t think I will see my dad again,” Wai Hnin Pwint Thon said after the ceremony. “But he always told me that as long as this regime is there, there is no happy ending for my family. My ten-year-old sister is still in Burma with my mother and I hope that one day she will have the chance of a better life and not have to leave. That hope is what Amnesty means to me.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/29/amnesty-international-marks-50th-birthday

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