One of the most challenging passages in the gospels is at Matthew 25:34-36, where Jesus says that at the final judgement, the king will say to "the righteous", “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me" - and then we are told that the way that we do these things for him is to do them "the least of these who are members of my family". As we try to live faithfully by the light of the gospel, we try to find ways in which we can put the implied commands into practice in present-day conditions. Some of them are easier than others. We all contribute our money, through Christian Aid and other agencies, to help provide food for those in other countries who are hungry - and nowadays, sadly, we need to do the same through agencies such as the Exeter Food Bank for those in our own city who struggle to have enough to eat.
But how can we visit those who are in prison? A few people may be able to serve as Prison Visitors or in other ways minister to those in prison locally. Or maybe someone we know is convicting of a crime and goes to prison - then our Christian duty is clear, to maintain contact with them and support them, whatever we think about what they have done. But, happily, that probably does not happen often for most of us. So how can we fulfil this clear command of Jesus?
One way of doing so is to support the work of Amnesty International, and many members of the Mint seek to do this. Amnesty works with people who are imprisoned for their beliefs, or who are subjected to torture or the death penalty. Using information and advice on its website, you can join in its work directly - either by writing to prisoners or their families to give them comfort and hope, or by writing to governments and other authorities to plead for their release or for better treatment for them. And it does work. Sometimes, of course, letters and emails just seem to disappear into the ether. But then sometimes we hear of a prisoner released, or someone whose time of suffering has been lightened by the knowledge that others know of them and are working for them.
Amnesty publishes a wealth of information on its website, but for more information, talk to Stephen Lea (stephen[at]lea.eclipse.co.uk)
Amy will be doing the "Live Below the Line" challenge for 10 days for Amnesty.
She is looking for sponsors. If you can help, please check out her Just Giving page - http://www.justgiving.com/Amy-Deakin1