BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Since 2011, Peruvian farmer and environmental activist Máxima Acuña
has been facing violence and harassment after refusing to sell her land to the biggest
gold mining project in South America. Although she is nearly 4,000 miles away from
Bloomington-Normal, the Illinois Wesleyan University community has joined Acuña in
fighting for her rights.
Dozens of students and faculty members came together to write letters on behalf of
Acuña and other individuals at Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights event. These letters are petitions to release people imprisoned
for expressing their opinions, or to support human rights defenders and end human
The welcoming atmosphere of the Write for Rights event included music and refreshments,
encouraging people to take time out of their busy schedules and help affect change.
Those attending could choose to write letters protesting children with albinism being
hunted for their body parts, or for Indigenous people struggling to save their ancestral
lands from government takeover.
Carlos Ruiz ’20, treasurer of the Amnesty International Registered Student Organization (RSO), said it was difficult for the RSO to select four cases out of the possible
30 provided by Amnesty International, but making those selections was important so
letter-writers could connect with the people on a personal level.
“We could debate about who we want to advocate for,” said Ruiz. “For me, this guy
[Native American activist] Leonard [Peltier] stood out.” Peltier’s indictment and
conviction in the murder of two FBI agents in 1975 has been the subject of considerable
controversy over the past 40 years.
Emily Haas ’17, the president of Illinois Wesleyan’s Amnesty RSO, said participants
wrote more than 80 letters. “The way to change is being politically active and trying
to talk to people in government,” said Hass. “This is a good way of getting started.”
In conjunction with Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, Write for Rights is just one way
to encourage people to petition for the rights of those suffering from injustice.
“Sometimes the best thing to do is to get down on your knees and start working for
other people, before you can actually improve your own life,” said Ruiz.
Amnesty International is a global organization that is primarily dedicated to fulfilling
human rights around the world. Numerous international chapters participate in the
advocacy of human rights and community education surrounding this issue.