Catholics in Britain have a strong tradition of supporting Amnesty International. Many Catholic parishes, and groups of pupils in Catholic schools, supported Amnesty’s work in campaigning on behalf of prisoners of conscience. Not any more. Two years ago, Amnesty adopted a policy of supporting abortion, and now Catholics supporting human rights have transferred their work and dedication to other groups.
Prominent among those resigning from Amnesty was the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who resigned immediately after Amnesty made its decision in August 2007. In his statement, the Cardinal said: “I hope I act in a manner which is ‘pro-life,’ following what I believe is the teaching of Jesus Christ and the teaching of my Church. That basic and most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life, is recognised by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the document upon which Amnesty International was founded. Sadly now, Amnesty International seems to be placing itself at the forefront of a campaign for a universal ‘right’ to abortion in contravention to that basic right to human life. For me, it is a matter of conscience that I have decided to resign from Amnesty International.”
Another who resigned was young pro-life campaigner Fiorella Nash, who has a special personal story to tell. “My family owes a huge debt to Amnesty International,” she said. “When my father was imprisoned in Malta during the Mintoff government, they saved his life. For years and years, we supported their work, rattling tins in street collections in the rain, and organising fund-raising events.
“But now Amnesty has betrayed its beliefs. It’s not just that the policy on abortion has changed – it’s the way it was done. Only pro-abortion material was circulated and, at the meeting in London, all the speakers were pro-abortion. There was no attempt at a fair debate.
“It’s ironic. When they changed their policy to one promoting abortion, I was pregnant with my first child. I found myself thinking, ‘When my father was vulnerable, you supported him. But now, what about vulnerable unborn children?’”
Fiorella, who works for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, is also an award-winning novelist whose first book, a Maltese family saga, is published under her maiden name Fiorella de Maria.
“Today, Catholics must continue to campaign for the rights of those unjustly imprisoned, but we can do so through other groups and organisations,” she said. “It’s a pity, because Amnesty had built up a status and a reputation. But we should remember that Catholics have been working with the poor, the oppressed, prisoners, and victims of injustice, for centuries – and we’ll just go on doing it.”