Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Your Letter Counts!

This post has been inspired by some great news I received about someone imprisoned by his oppressive government. I can’t wait to share the news, but have been asked to wait.

Often you feel powerless when a government arrests a person seeking freedom, democracy, education for women (or even the right to drive). It might be a tribe or people denied clean water or medicine, or any one of a thousand values that we take for granted every day.

We throw up our arms and give in. We get burnt out and buried in the stress of our own lives. But what if we each took 20 minutes a week or a month and wrote a letter to a political prisoner. Would it work?


When I was a teenager, I lost my political virginity campaigning to free Nelson Mandela and Anatoly Sharansky. I wrote letters, asked people to sign petitions, and went to demonstrations. Neither of these great men are free because of an English teenager’s attempts, but maybe I was a snowflake in the avalanche.

Bu Dongwei thinks so. He believes it worked for him. If nothing else take 2mins 21sec and listen to his story.

And Morgan Freeman agrees.

Amnesty International offers a list of prisoners and there are other organizations like PEN who advocate for writers who are jailed for standing up for freedom of speech in their own countries.

So how about it? Let’s all commit to just one letter a week/month. Put it in your calendar and let’s make a start.  


Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More athttp://www.alonshalev.com and onTwitter (@elfwriter).

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2 thoughts on “Your Letter Counts!

  1. You spelled his name “Du Bengwei” The correct spelling is “Bu Dongwei”
    After I watched the video and discovering the correct spelling of his name, I wanted to discover more about why he was arrested for expressing his religious beliefs, and I learned he is a member of the Falun Gong. The Falun Gong is a cult that worships many gods—not the one true God.

    God is clear in the Old Testament when He says “You shall have no other gods before me”, Exodus 20.3. In Isaiah 44:6, God says, “There is No Other God Beside Me.”

    There are many passages in the Bible that focus on this topic, and


    Under Mao, who died in 1976, there was no religious freedom in China and those who dared to continue to worship were punished severely. That changed after Mao’s death. Today, members of several major religions are allowed to freely worship in China as long as their spiritual beliefs do not become political.
    And under Deng Xiaoping, who led the CCP after Mao’s death, many of the major Buddhist temples that Mao had torn down were rebuilt.

    In fact, God may even agree with what China has done to members of the Falun Gong.

    “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:5)

    In fact, the Falun Gong was allowed to practice and worship in China until the day ten-thousand strong, the suddenly appeared in protest in front of the gates of the CCP headquarters in Beijing, and it is well known that China does not take kindly to anyone who attempts to shake up the status-quo.

    God does not say to mistreat the pagans, but He also does not say to support their right to worship as they want.

    “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:5)

    And China is not alone in its restrictions on religions like the Falun Gong. A study from the Pew Forum lists a number of countries—some that are far more restrictive than China.

    “Overall, the study finds that during the period from mid-2007 to mid-2009 government restrictions on religion were high or very high in 42 countries, about one-in-five worldwide.4 The 10 countries that had very high restrictions as of mid-2009 were Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, China, Maldives, Malaysia, Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea and Indonesia.”

    Source: http://www.pewforum.org/2011/08/09/rising-restrictions-on-religion3/

    I’m not agreeing with what China did to the Falun Gong, but I do not condemn what was done either because this is a topic that is debatable.

    The question to ask might be: When does a religion or cult cross a line and find themselves in trouble with the ruling government of a country? What did they do to bring this wrath down on them.

    And then there is this from God about obeying authority:

    “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Source: Hebrews 13:17

    This one quote is only one of many examples from: http://www.openbible.info/topics/obeying_authority

    • Thanks for noticing, Lloyd. I’ll change the spelling.

      I’m not sure I agree with your analysis. The point is not what the religion is, it is the right for people to express their religious beliefs.

      What you write about crossing the line politically is very pertinent, however. I would also question what motivated the Falun Gong leaders to hold such a large and provocative demonstration. Was it perhaps to object to those already incarcerated for practicing Falun Gong (I really do not know the answer)?

      Appreciate your comment.


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