‘Freedom Dinner’ in Lindsay is ‘fundamental’ to Amnesty mission

By Trevor Hutchinson

The Lindsay chapter of Amnesty International will be holding its 30th annual Freedom Dinner April 28 at St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

According to one of the local organizers, Lori Moore, the Freedom Dinner is one of the two main annual fundraisers for the group. Every year the group picks one country to highlight and this year’s country is Turkey. The dinner will consist of Turkish cuisine prepared by local caterer extraordinaire Edna Smith.

Amnesty International is a global movement of over seven million people in more than 150 countries working together to protect and promote human rights. They conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated. The organization does not accept any money from any government and is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion.  All of Amnesty International’s work is supported from the donations of individuals.

The Lindsay chapter (Group 105) meets every other month to plan their awareness campaigns at the local level and holds two major fundraisers: the Freedom Dinner and a yard sale which will be held Saturday May 12th at 67 Bond St. in Lindsay.

In an interview with The Lindsay Advocate, Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada (who was himself the guest speaker at the 25th annual Freedom Dinner), noted that “events like the amazing group in Lindsay’s Freedom Dinner are absolutely fundamental to the mission of Amnesty International.”

The guest speaker at this year’s dinner is Gloria Nafziger who says she “is honoured to join Amnesty Group 105 for their 30th annual freedom dinner. I am always inspired by the tenacity of Amnesty members who, year after year, faithfully take action to support prisoners of conscience, and call on governments to be accountable. The actions we take bring hope to so many people who rely on us to elevate their voices in calls for freedom, justice, dignity and life.”

Since 1986 Nafzinger has spent a career in refugee advocacy in several roles for CUSO, Amnesty International and the Mennonite Central Committee to name just a few. She is also currently the Turkey campaigner for Amnesty International Canada.

The choice of Turkey might seem an unusual country to focus on to some, given that the country is a NATO partner of Canada. Nafziger explains that “Turkey is in the midst of a state of emergency which has been in place since a failed coup attempt in July 2016. Any form of dissent has been ruthlessly suppressed, with journalists, political activists and human rights defenders among those targeted and detained.”

The clampdown on human rights in Turkey has hit particularly close to home for Amnesty International. Explains Nafziger:

“In June 2017, Taner Kılıç, the then Chair of Amnesty International Turkey was arrested and accused of membership in a terrorist organization.  The charges against Taner are completely baseless. He remains detained to date in spite of a lack of evidence against him.”

“Further to this, in July 2017, 10 human rights defenders, including Amnesty International Turkey Director İdil Eser, were arrested and held in pre-trial detention under trumped-up charges for “membership of a terrorist organization” based on their work as human rights defenders.”

She adds that Idil has been released on bail, pending trial. Taner and Idil are only two of thousands of people unjustly jailed as part of the crackdown in Turkey.

“The charges against these human rights defenders are a reminder to everyone that support for human rights can come with a tremendous cost.”

Nafziger says, “May we in Canada never take our right to defend human rights for granted.”

“In the last two years, the level of human rights abuse in Turkey has been astounding,” adds Neve. “Canada should be vocal about these abuses but our government has been virtually silent on the matter.”

Given the lack of attention given this issue by the government and the media, “it’s crucial to hear how grave the situation in Turkey is.”

Tickets to the event are $40 for adults and $20 for students. Tickets can be reserved by emailing Cathy Anderson at or by calling Kathy 705-324-2037 or Julie 705-328-0587. The door and bar opens at 6:30 p.m. with the dinner to follow at 7:00 p.m.

Adds Neve, “there is nothing more satisfying and motivating than sharing a meal, learning together and mobilizing as a community — and this is what the Freedom Dinner is in its essence.”

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