Manchester University
Oak Leaves

October 27, 2018


While on the trip, students enjoyed the scenery and attractions of St. Louis. 

Photo provided

Peace Studies Students Attend Amnesty International Conference

Matthew Barbosa


Last weekend 12 students and two faculty members attended the Amnesty International (AI) Midwest Regional Conference in St. Louis, MO. There they participated in various workshops to learn what AI local chapters do to be successful and how student groups organize and build an on-campus following across universities in the Midwest.

One of AI’s campaigns is “Write4Rights,” through which members of AI write letters to help prisoners of conscience, POC, be released from prison. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, or Mother Mushroom, a Vietnamese blogger and outspoken dissident of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for their violations of human rights and corruption, was recently released from prison in part due to this campaign. AI tries to take on 12 cases a year to write about and Mother Mushroom is an example of a recent success story

Currently AI is working on writing letters to the Philippines in an attempt to free Senator Leila de Lima for speaking out against President Duterte’s war on drugs that resulted in the extrajudicial execution of many perceived drug offenders.

Write4Rights is just one of many campaigns that AI undertakes in an effort to improve human rights around the world. Other campaigns that will be pressed in 2018 and 2019 are the Longer Table Initiative, End Gun Violence campaign, and calling for the Trump Administration to avoid indefinitely detaining children crossing the border into the USA.

Manchester University used to have its own local chapter of AI, but over time the group lost its ground. The peace studies program at MU aims to change that by reviving the local chapter and this conference was the first step, of many, to reestablish that local group.

“I feel like we all learned pieces that we can put together to bring it back,” said senior Peace Studies major Digby Strogen on the reviving of the MU AI local chapter.

Students found the conference beneficial. “I really liked hearing what students from around the Midwest are doing in their Amnesty chapters,” said junior peace studies and political science major Jesse Langdon. “It really got me thinking of things we could do here at Manchester.”

Langdon attended a workshop geared toward running student activist groups where other students from across the Midwest shared their tips, strategies and weaknesses in organizing and sustaining their groups.

Young activists as well as senior activists were all in attendance representing AI. For MU the senior members were a wealth of knowledge to be explored. They received numerous names of people to contact about funding, networking, and campaigning, all of which they could use in their mission to bring back AI to MU and hit the ground running by engaging in human rights work.

“Hearing the perspectives of experienced [AI] group leaders helped me gain understanding of the AI organizational structure,” said senior peace studies and environmental studies major Amy Weeks. She attended the Local Group Leader Caucus, where the senior members of AI groups across the Midwest learned of MU’s goal to revive the program and were eager and impassioned to help along the way.

Human rights activists in attendance were all happy to report on personal successes in their respective regions and come together and discuss the future goals of AI as a whole and where resources will be focused on for the coming year. End Gun Violence and the Longer Table Initiative campaigns are at the center of AI’s current focus and are described in detail on their site.