In China, Yiliyasijiang Reheman and his wife were expecting their second child when he disappeared in 2017. Reheman is one of about one million Muslim Uighurs detained by the Chinese government.
In Iran, Yasaman Aryani was sentenced to 16 years in prison for daring to appear in public without a head covering. Her arrest is part of larger government crackdown on women in that country protesting against forced veiling.
In Grassy Narrows, Ont., 13-year-old Jianne Turtle is fighting for clean water for her community — something long-promised by various federal governments.
Reheman, Aryani and Grassy Narrows are three human rights cases Winnipeggers can advocate for Saturday at the annual Write for Rights at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church (160 Ethelbert St.).
The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is part of the worldwide Amnesty International Write for Rights campaign, on behalf of 10 people and communities suffering human rights abuses.
"People can come and choose which case they want to write about," said local organizer Bruce Hildebrand, noting information about the various cases will be available to help people with writing their letters.
In addition to the cases provided by Amnesty International, St. Margaret’s also provides letter writers an opportunity to advocate for persecuted Christians.
"Through it, I’ve learned how pervasive Christian persecution is around the world," Hildebrand said.
Last year, the church invited people to write letters on behalf of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was acquitted of blasphemy and allowed to come to Canada after an international outcry about her situation.
"What happened to Asia Bibi is the kind of thing we hope for each time," Hildebrand said.
Being part of Write for Rights at St. Margaret’s has had additional impact.
"It’s helped me come to appreciate the freedoms I enjoy in Canada," he said, adding "those of us who enjoy freedom have a responsibility to exercise that freedom on behalf of others."
Holding the event has also affected the church; the cases participants write about each year "often make their way into the prayers of the people on Sunday mornings," Hildebrand said. "It has become part of our corporate prayer as a community."
People who want to participate in Write for Rights at St. Margaret’s can drop in any time that day; all letters will be handwritten to make them more personal.
A copy is then made, with one sent to a government official in charge of the case, and one for the person being written about.
"This can let prisoners and others know they aren’t forgotten," Hildebrand said, adding it is "also a signal to governments they are being watched."
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.