This is our current newsletter, except that Urgent Actions have been removed since they are not public domain. If you would like a copy of our newsletter (either electronically or via snail-mail) please contact us.
Coordinator's Corner The Face of Love Some months ago, PBS aired several hours of documentaries about Tibet. What, I wondered, is it about Tibet that makes it so fascinating to both filmmakers and the general public? The physically remote location, walled off from the rest of civilization? the other-worldly people and customs? A scene in one of the films stood out. A young Tibetan nun had just completed the arduous journey across the Himalayas to safety and freedom. And all she could speak of was how much compassion she felt for the men who had tortured her, how difficult their lives must be. Talk about exotic! Maybe our fascination stems from the difficulty in imagining how a whole culture could be based on this compassionate, non-violent ethic. It seems so alien, so spiritually remote, from our own. Then again, maybe it doesn't need to be so alien. Several members of our group gathered to see the film "Dead Man Walking" in Old Town a few weeks ago, and are now ready to add our hearty endorsements to all the critics' raves. But more importantly, the outing served to remind us of the powerful example of compassion that Helen Prejean presents to us all, epitomized in the movie when she tells the death row inmate to look at her because she wants the last thing he sees to be a "face of love." The movie was successful in conveying that this kind of compassion does not come without a struggle- all the more reason to value and strive for it. As Sister Helen has said, "In our society forgiveness is often seen as a weakness. People who forgive those who have hurt them or their family are made to look as if they don't really care about their loved ones. But forgiveness is a tremendous strength." Sister Helen understands the Tibetan nun. Would that we could all present that "face of love" and that our society could value compassion as much as the Tibetans do. Our new China campaign offers an opportunity to work on behalf of several Tibetan prisoners of conscience, including several nuns, whose non-violent protests against the Chinese government resulted in prison sentences, torture, rape and in some cases death from the conditions of imprisonment. At the same time, we face a pending execution in our own state, and this difficult case will be a challenge to many of us seeking to communicate our opposition to the death penalty. Please join us at our next meeting to find out you can get help. See you there! Martha Ter Maat Group Coordinator 818-281-4039 firstname.lastname@example.org Up-coming Events Sunday, February 18, 6:00 PM at Martha's in Alhambra Chinese New Year's PARTY - Bring in the YEAR of the RAT! Martha and Pat will be teaching all to make and eat Chinese dumplings, followed by viewing of a Chinese video. $5 per person. Please feel free to bring a friend. PLEASE RSVP TO MARTHA. Thursday, February 22, 7:30 PM Monthly Meeting at the Caltech Y. Updates on our on-going campaigns and kick-off for the China campaign, starting with Tibet. Thursday, February 22, 11:00 PM-1:00 AM. Execution vigil at All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid. The vigil will be a time for silent relfection with a brief period of prayers and readings at midnight. Wednesday, February 28, 7:30 PM Tibetan Prisoner of Conscience, Gendun Rinchen, at the Museum of Tolerance (9786 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles) Free of charge. Friday, March 1, International Abolition Day. Table on the death penalty on the Olive Walk. Please contact Mark to help out. Saturday, March 16, 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM Super Benefit Dance at Virgilio's, 2611 S. La Cienega (crossstreet: Venice). $10, Cash bar, auction, DJ from KCRW. Tracy says: Lots of fun! More info: 213-876-2662. Funds to go to: China campaign, Westside community groups. Saturday, May 11, Knightsbridge Theater Fund-raiser. Save the Date! Web Tips for February Abolition Now! http://www.hooked.net/users/plehner/dp/ Abolition Now! is a new compendium of web resources on the death penalty. Of particular interest to activists is the state by state updates on specific cases including California. In honor of the Black History Month, we suggest checking out the link to the ACLU fact sheet on "Race and the Death Penalty" and for an excellent overview start with Hugo Adam Bedau's "The Case Against the Death Penalty". We quote here from the portion of the essay on lethal injection, soon to be the preferred method of execution in California (see also the "Botched Executions" link): "The latest mode of inflicting the death penalty, enacted into law by nearly two dozen states, is lethal injection, first used in Texas in 1982. It is easy to overstate the humaneness and efficacy of this method. There is no way of knowing that it is really painless. As the U.S. Court of Appeals observed, there is "substantial and uncontroverted evidence ... that execution by lethal injection poses a serious risk of cruel, protracted death.... Even a slight error in dosage or administration can leave a prisoner conscious but paralyzed while dying, a sentient witness of his or her own asphyxiation." (Chaney v. Heckler, 718 F.2d 1174 ) "Nor does the execution always proceed smoothly as planned. In 1985 "the authorities repeatedly jabbed needles into ... Stephen Morin, when they had trouble finding a usable vein because he had been a drug abuser." In 1988, during the execution of Raymond Landry, "a tube attached to a needle inside the inmate's right arm began leaking, sending the lethal mixture shooting across the death chamber toward witnesses." "Indeed, by its veneer of decency and by subtle analogy with life-saving medical practice, death by lethal injection makes killing as punishment more acceptable to the public. Even when it prevents the struggles of the condemned person and avoids maiming the body, it is no different from hanging or shooting as an expression of the absolute power of the state over the helpless individual." Tibetan Women's Association http://www.grannyg.bc.ca/tibet.html There are so many good sites out there which are relevant to the China campaign that we are expanding "Web Tips" for the time being. While the Tibetan Women's Association is linked to the Free Tibet page, it's worth a special visit this month as we focus on the plight of Tibetan nuns. Plus you will find lots of great links to pictures to help you appreciate this very photogenic land and it's people. ------------------------------------------------------- China Campaign Special Action Focus: Tibetan Nuns Background: Repression of political dissent in the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, already endemic for many years, has increased further from 1993 to the present. New forms of repression have been introduced, targeted primarily against people actively promoting the independence of Tibet. Hundreds of political prisoners, the overwhelming majority of them prisoners of conscience, are being held. Most are Buddhist monks and nuns detained solely for their peaceful expression of support for independence. Some are being held without charge or trial for long periods while others were sentenced to lengthy terms in prison after grossly unfair trials. Many of them were tortured. In May 1992, 25-year old Ngawang Choekyi was among 14 nuns from Toelung Nyen Nunnery who were arrested in Lhasa because they had joined a pro-independence demonstration. She was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and sent to Drapchi Prison in Lhasa. In 1993, her sentence was increased to eight years after she and 13 other nuns were convicted of having composed and recorded pro-independence songs in prison. In most of the songs, which were recorded on a tape recorder that had been smuggled into prison, the nuns reaffirmed their commitment to Tibetan independence and make assurances that they are in good spirits. Please take a moment to write a letter on their behalf. In the letter, you can make any or all of the following points: - Amnesty considers Ngawang Choekyi, along with the 13 other nuns, to be prisoners of conscience, who have not used or advocated violence. We demand their immediate and unconditional release from prison. - Amnesty is very concerned that the 14 nuns received the additional punishment of eight years simply for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of conscience and expression. - Amnesty is also concerned that the nuns have not received fair trials either when they were first arrested or during the second trial in October 1993. The organization considers that the trial procedures provided in Chinese law do not meet the minimum standards for fair trial set out in international human rights standards. - Amnesty is disturbed by the numerous reports of torture for political prisoners held in Tibet. Addresses: Gyaltsen Norbu Zhuxi (salutation: Dear President) President of the Xizang Autonomous Regional Peoples Government Xizang Zizhuiqu Renmin Zhengfu 1 Kangangdonglu Lasashi 850000 Xizang Zizhiqu Peoples Republic of China Send a copy of your letter to: His Excellency Li Daoyu Embassy of the Peoples Rebublic of China 2300 Connecticut Ave. NW Washington, DC 20008 Editor's last words. --------------------- Write for the newsletter! Commentaries, suggestions are always welcomed. You can also read the newsletter on line at: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22/home.html Check out the web-tips links. Roberto (818)796-0876 email@example.com http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~rzenit/rzenit.html --------------------------------------------------------------------- Amnesty International works impartially to free prisoners of conscience-individuals jailed solely for their beliefs, ethnic origin, language, or sexual orientation, provided they have not used or advocated violence-to ensure fair trials for all political prisoners, and to abolish torture and executions worldwide. It is funded by members and supporters around the world. Caltech/Pasadena Group 22. firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~aigp22/home.html Group Coordinator: Martha Ter Maat email@example.com 818-281-4039