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IT SEEMS THAT every day another country announces the closure of Amnesty International groups in schools as a result of the organisation’s pro-abortion policy.

Catholic schools in Scotland are the latest to join the exodus from AI. According to the Scottish Catholic Observer, one of these schools, Glasgow’s Holyrood Secondary, is the largest high school in Europe and has had an active AI group for more than 20 years.

The newspaper quotes a Holyrood teacher explaining his school’s decision to disband its AI group: “I felt we had to withdraw not just because of the policy, but because of the way it’s presented, which was one-sided and unwilling to account for the pro-life viewpoint,” he said.

The director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service Michael McGrath said he did not expect any Catholic schools to continue their support of AI and encouraged schools to campaign for human rights and justice and peace through other organisations. “While many Catholic schools have been generally supportive of Amnesty International in the past,” he said, “rather than having hard ties to the groups I think that support will now go down.”

Mr McGrath also said that schools would also be encouraged to question AI on why it had adopted the new abortion stance.A spokesman for AI in Scotland said that he would welcome an opportunity to discuss the situation with the Catholic authorities directly. Unfortunately, the point is that AI has not listened to its members in the past – many people have emailed this blog suggesting that AI did not respond to their letters. The decisions of the school boards should not be of any surprise to AI as they had been cautioned of the consequences of their decision.

The consultation process that AI conducted in the run-up to the adoption of the policy has been widely discredited and AI has yet to explain why Amnesty International UK continued to tell members the consultation was ongoing long after a decision had been reached.

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THE TIDAL WAVE of schools dropping Amnesty International following the organisation’s decision to adopt a pro-abortion policy continues unabated with the news that 328 Australian Catholic schools will quit AI.

The director of the Catholic Education Office in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Stephen Elder, said his office had made repeated attempts to contact Amnesty over the issue to raise its “serious concerns about the policy”. However, he said efforts to discuss the stance had proved fruitless. This is unsurprising as Amnesty International refused to respond to many members’ queries on the issue over the last couple of years, and some sectors went as far as misleading their members (see previous posts). Now all of the archdiocese’s 328 schools will cut their links with AI in favor of other human rights groups and activities.

Maria Kirkwood, assistant director of religious education and pastoral care in the Melbourne archdiocese, added that a significant number of schools had supported Amnesty programs over many years.

“It’s an organisation we would encourage schools to support, which is why this is so disappointing,” she told the Age newspaper in Australia. “But this particular issue [abortion] is a very significant one for the Catholic Church and it is impossible for the Catholic Church to continue to support Amnesty with a policy of this nature in place.”

A spokesperson for Amnesty International Australia confirmed to the newspaper that a number of schools had already written to the organisation to withdraw membership. As mentioned in a posting yesterday, the organisation faces a potential long-term crisis in supporters; many adult members became involved with Amnesty through their school or church – the establishments that AI’s policy has now rejected.

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CATHOLIC SCHOOLS in Northern Ireland are breaking their ties with Amnesty International following the organization’s decision to advocate abortion as a human right.

Next month the Irish bishops will meet to discuss whether or not any of the Church’s schools should maintain links with AI, but moves by some schools in Belfast would indicate that it is a foregone conclusion that the policy throughout the country will be to drop AI in favour of other human rights groups. The auxiliary bishop of Down and Connor, Donal McKeown said that his diocese had already taken the view that it would be inappropriate for Catholic schools to continue supporting Amnesty.

“Amnesty’s espousal in recent months of campaigning for abortion access in limited circumstances will leave many people in a difficult situation, ” he said. “All we are saying here is that it seemed inappropriate in those circumstances for Catholic schools to be promoting the organisation.”

The deepening rift between many current members and AI over its pro-abortion stance will have longer-lasting implications for the organization: since its formation by the Catholic Peter Benenson in 1961, it has become common for Catholic schools to establish an AI group of their own, or to at least support the organization’s campaigns and many former pupils have gone on to support the organization after they left school. With its decision to divide its membership base, AI is likely to lose the prospect of longer term supporters.

In Canada, the Catholic Bishops Conference is also expected to make a strong statement condmening Amnesty’s aborion move when it meets in October. Last week St Basil’s Secondary School in Ontario, Canada announced that it would no longer have ties with its local AI group.

In Australia the Bishops have already called for AI to reverse its policy and in August St Aloysius College in Sydney, Australia announced that it would disband its Amnesty International group and instead establish a Benenson Society at the school to campaign for human rights.

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THE BBC Newsnight programme hosted by Kirsty Wark recently featured the Bishop of East Anglia Michael Evans and Phillippe Hensmans of Amnesty International discussing the organisation’s recent abortion policy.

The Amnesty International spokesman again claimed that there was a democratic process involved in adopting this policy, but of course, to date Amnesty has provided no proof of the impartiality or probity of the consultation process nor has it explained on what basis the UK’s consultation results were ignored or why it continued to claim the consultation process was ongoing after its leadership had made up its mind to force the policy on the organisation.

The spokesman appears to make the claim that Amnesty International is not responsible for the divide in its membership. Strictly speaking he is right, I suppose, the reason for the membership split is the leadership of Amnesty International.

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THE POPE said he spoke for unborn children when he warned that abortion was not a human right and pleaded for countries not to allow their abortion legislation to treat children as illnesses.

Although Pope Benedict XVI did not directly refer to Amnesty International’s decision to campaign for abortion in the statement he made in Austria on Friday, his remarks are a thinly-veiled criticism of the human rights organisation which has recently equated abortion with a human right. The Pope also called for countries to retain laws restricting abortions; a position that is also contrary to AI’s newly adopted abortion policy. AI was founded by Peter Benenson after he converted to Catholicism and its new policy has been widely criticised by the Catholic Church (see previous posts) and high-ranking Vatican officials.

The full transcript of the Pope’s speech is available here. The pertinent paragraphs follow:

It was in Europe that the notion of human rights was first formulated. The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right – it is the very opposite. It is “a deep wound in society”, as the late Cardinal Franz König never tired of repeating.

“In stating this, I am not expressing a specifically ecclesial concern. Rather, I wish to act as an advocate for a profoundly human need, speaking out on behalf of those unborn children who have no voice. In doing so, I do not close my eyes to the difficulties and the conflicts which many women are experiencing, and I realize that the credibility of what we say also depends on what the Church herself is doing to help women in trouble.

“In this context, then, I appeal to political leaders not to allow children to be considered as a form of illness, nor to abolish in practice your legal system’s acknowledgment that abortion is wrong. I say this out of a concern for humanity.”

Pope Benedict XVI, 7 September 2007

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I HAD AN email this morning about the blog asking why there was so much information from the Catholic Church. We’re always happy to hear from people and you can email us at saveamnesty @ gmail.com (you’ll need to remove the spaces on either side of the @ symbol – they’re added to reduce spam).

We do have a lot of information from the Catholic Church and the Catholic hierarchy – that is because many of the Church’s statements reflects the position we hold over this issue and the Church has been more vocal about the issue than any other organisation. But we have stressed in the past that this is not just a Catholic matter – and in the blog there are links to comments on the issue from different Christian denominations, other religions, including Islam, and those with no faith. We would be delighted to consider all comments from different religious groups and those with no affinity – and would be grateful for any information on this.

While we freely admit that we object to Amnesty International’s newly adopted abortion policy on moral and ethical grounds, that is far from our only objection and concern; for example, we’ve argued in the past that the policy is:

  • Inconsistent with AI’s s stated aim of protecting human rights;its arguments for other human rights; and inconsistent with international human rights laws, treaties and conventions. (more…)

ELEANOR Roosevelt inspecting the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Included in the Declaration is the right to life. According to Amnesty International’s new policy on abortion apparently there was some small print in there that she missed: AI thinks that you have to be at a certain stage of life before they apply and until then other people’s rights take priority…some people are just more equal than others, the human rights organisation appears to believe. I think the bottom picture should also include “subject to status”! Thanks to KD for sending this in. (more…)

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