In November we are all reminded of past wars. I think that, in the midst of this remembrance, we also need to think of those who suffer now for opposing present and future wars.
Many years ago, I was acquitted, along with 13 other people, after a trial under a silly law called the Incitement to Disaffection Act.
The acquittal came on 10 December, and ever since then I've celebrated with a party on or near Human Rights Day (10 December).
One year a couple came to the party bringing cards and a list of peace prisoners. If this was a Human Rights Day party, they said, why didn't we do something for human rights?
Since then the focal point of the party has been writing cards to peace prisoners.
The roll call of prisoners that we use each year is a list of imprisoned conscientious objectors and peace campaigners compiled by War Resisters International (based in the same building as Peace News).
And that list can be found inside this very edition of Peace News, inside the WRI Supplement.
I've found that sending cards to peace prisoners is an excellent collective activity for peace groups. It can unite everyone from those who don't or can't take part in demonstrations to those who are themselves ex-prisoners for peace and remember how comforting it was to receive communications from the outside world.
On the other hand, it is also something that can be done by a solitary individual far from any local group.
I have personally found that it is a great activity for a party.
A few tips. You can involve everyone: those who like circulating can take the cards round to collect as many signatures as possible for each card. Those who are less outgoing can address envelopes.
If cards and envelopes have to be reunited, I find children are better at this task than adults.
Every card needs the name and address of just one of the signatories on the back of the envelope.
Ideally the address on the back of the card should be from someone prepared to write again to the prisoner if a reply - sometimes very moving - is received.
If the card is returned, I suggest writing to the embassy asking them to forward a letter to the present address of the prisoner.
A bland wish like “Seasons Greetings” may be boring but has a better chance of getting through the censors than a political or religious slogan.
Sadly the Prisoners for Peace list represents only the tip of a very large iceburg. (For more information see the excellent and informative WRI website http://wri-irg.org )
November is a time for us to remember not only those who have fallen in the wars of the past, but also those who are now resisting the wars of today and tomorrow.