A Story of Hope…. a guest blog from our Associate Partner, CSW
Juana’s world has fallen down around her. Since she was arrested and wrongfully convicted of terrorism, along with her husband Victor, her bright future (the law degrees she and her husband were studying for as they raise Alvaro, their bright and happy four-year-old son) has evaporated. The last time she saw Victor, his body was bloody and covered in bruises, the marks of horrific torture. Juana herself can’t feel one side of her face anymore – even her own body, it seems, can no longer be relied upon.
She has always believed in the power of prayer. She knows she must be strong. And, as she closes her eyes to talk to the Father whose presence has become the only constant in her life, He answers. Juana hears the rough rasp of today’s rations being pushed under the door. Tucked away alongside the tray, she knows, is a message of encouragement.
Maybe it’s from one of the other prisoners. Maybe it’s a love letter from Victor, a reminder of the future that they planned together, of the family they still want to raise and the son whose absence is a physical ache inside her. Most likely, though, it’s a card from a Christian far away, its bright picture and Bible verse in a foreign hand a reminder that though Juana is in isolation, she is part of a family that is so much bigger than she ever knew.
Juana breathes out relief, and thanks God for this blessing.
As a human rights charity advocating for freedom of religion or belief, CSW is privileged to have many elements in our toolkit, from expert advocates to incredibly brave contacts in-country, to dedicated and generous supporters that enable our work through campaigning and prayer.
However, in terms of pure encouragement, love and hope for those we work with, one of the most effective tools we have is the simple letter. Sending letters and cards of encouragement to those in prison or suffering in other ways for their beliefs has been an integral part of CSW’s work since our inception 40 years ago.
In 2001, CSW supporters learned of the arrest of Juana and her husband, Victor, in Peru. The couple was arrested in 1993 and wrongly convicted of terrorism charges. For eight years, they were only allowed to correspond through letters, a wrenching hardship for a couple who only wanted to follow God together and raise a family. We made their addresses available to our supporters, and they sent the couple a flood of messages, from Christmas cards to picture postcards of quintessentially English scenes to brighten their cells. In 2002 their sentences were overturned and they were reunited with their son.
Seventeen years later, Juana and Victor are free, and every Christmas they use the cards that they received while in prison to decorate a wall of their home. They go over each card with their children, explaining its significance. Their son Alvaro, now 29, has a family of his own – as well as a brother, Ismael, and a sister, Pierina.
These cards were love letters from a family they had never met and were a lifeline to Victor and Juana when a broken justice system kept their family apart.
Sadly, there are many more stories like Juana and Victor’s in our work, and they have yet to come to a happy conclusion. Come along to CSW’s stand and our programme sessions at Greenbelt 2019 and find out how you, too, can be a message of hope and love to someone suffering because of their faith.