Multi-platinum and multiple GRAMMY and Dove Award-winning band Jars of Clay will hold a free concert in Nashville’s Centennial Park Friday, April 20, from 7:00-9:30 p.m. The performance is to celebrate Amnesty International’s 40th anniversary and help launch the Annual General Meeting of the organization’s US section. The meeting, dubbed “Music and Human Rights,” will include high-profile speakers addressing human rights issues, as well as the Clark Montessori High School Steel Band and a surprise guest appearance by another renowned Nashville musician.
“We’re delighted to be holding Amnesty International’s annual event in the dynamic city of Nashville,” said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). “And we’re pleased to be celebrating our 40th Anniversary with Jars of Clay, a group that has consistently spoken out on behalf of the disenfranchised, particularly those persecuted for their religious convictions.”
“The right to religious freedom transcends the barriers of personal belief and conviction,” added Jars of Clay band members. “Whether Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim, the persecution of those whose faith is different than others is one of the greatest forms of injustice. We are excited to partner with Amnesty International, a beacon to those who suffer from great oppression around the world, in protecting one of our most fundamental of rights.”
More than 700 Amnesty International supporters from all over the United States are expected to participate in the Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza from April 20-22. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Face to Face: Confronting Torture in the 21st Century,” which focuses on the organization’s campaign to stop torture around the globe. Participants, including torture survivor-activists and human rights defenders from many parts of the world, will illustrate the prevalence and impact of this multi-faceted human rights abuse.
Amnesty International launched its first international campaign to eliminate torture in 1972; this year in Nashville, the organization will celebrate its latest technological advance in combating torture, the FAST (Fast Action Stops Torture) network, and encourage the people of Nashville to join. Amnesty International’s extensive research reveals that torture is commonly inflicted during the first few hours of detention and that the sooner the first protests arrive, the lower the risk of torture. Through FAST, thousands of activists e-mail protests directly to the torturers within hours of receiving an alert from Amnesty International that someone is at risk of torture. Initiated last November, FAST already has over 11,000 members and has helped free six people who were wrongfully imprisoned and tortured.
The meeting begins on Friday, April 20, at 6:00 p.m. with its opening plenary, which features keynote speaker and 1987 Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez, who served as president of Costa Rica from 1986-1990 and holds international stature as a spokesperson for the Third World. Championing such issues as human development, democracy and demilitarization, he has traveled the globe spreading a message of peace and applying the lessons garnered from the Central American Peace Process to topics of current global debate.
“Amnesty International is one of the most important groups on this planet for protecting human rights,” Arias said. “Thanks to the leadership of Amnesty International and other groups, people are starting to wake up to the necessity to stop torture and abuse…I am proud to be joining the organization at their annual meeting to discuss these topics and give my support to their important work for justice, peace, and democracy.”
Other noted human rights defenders speaking at the meeting include: Sister Dianna Ortiz, a US citizen and Ursuline nun who was held and tortured by Guatemalan security forces with suspected American collaboration, Bryan A. Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama in Montgomery, Ala., Orlando Tizon, imprisoned in 1986 in the Philippines during the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos for his activities defending the human and social rights of the rural poor in his country, and Zhang Kunlun, a prominent Chinese sculptor who was arrested and subjected to beatings and electric shock after being sent to a detention center and labor camp without trial in November 2000 for practicing Falun Gong.
“There is so much to be learned from the stories of these brave activists,” said Derreck Kayongo, Acting Southern Regional Director for USA. “Their testimonies prove that torture and ill-treatment is still prevalent – including in our own country. However, that same testimony, combined with the efforts of the activists who will raise their voices in Nashville and around the world, is the very agent that can affect change and help end torture.”
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