Bahraini Political Prisoners' Letter to His Holiness Pope Francis

2022-10-17 - 7:06 p

Your Holiness, Pope Francis,

One of our customs that we grew up adhering to is welcoming, honoring, and celebrating guests, but we would like you to excuse our absence. We will not be able to be among those welcoming you since we are behind bars in the prisons of opposing political opinion. We are the inhabitants of this small, quiet island, its indigenous people, who have celebrated Christianity since their ancestors in the early centuries following the birth of Christ.

By virtue of our religious upbringing, we believe that the philosophy of the heavens calls for running earth on the basis of "all is good," and that your arrival to this island that is in crisis and suffering political stalemate will bring about good. We pray that God, with the blessings of your visit, opens the locks of doors, prisons and hearts that have been slammed shut.

Your Holiness, Pope Francis,

We speak to you on behalf of more than four thousand political prisoners from the people of this island, imprisoned throughout the years since the events of the 2011 Arab Spring. Some of them served their sentences and were released without redress, some died without compensation, some were killed without any investigation, some are awaiting execution without any intercession, while others will never be freed, sentenced to life, after being handed down ridiculously long prison terms.

We, prisoners of conscience, belong to different strata: We are women, children, men, teachers, doctors, academics, intellectuals, politicians and religious scholars. Not a single Shiite house in Bahrain has escaped the political imprisonment of one of its members over the past decade. Hope prompted everyone to take to the streets and protest peacefully in order to achieve a free and just homeland.

The political authorities have not pardoned any of us. Revenge was and still is the main motivator, and goal as well. The head of power has not adorned himself with forgiveness, and has not been characterized by justice, benevolence, and fairness.

We want your visit to lead to good and reconciliation. We want justice and fairness to be achieved on our island, as the countries of the free world have experienced, for countries that go through crises often see reconciliations follow.

Your Holiness the Pontifex,

Imprisonment, torture and humiliation distort the human body, spirit, identity and image that God has created. We are confident that one of the missions of the Holy See is to cleanse the image of human beings on earth, all earth, from the distortion of torment, so that the image of God is preserved in the heavens. As the Arabic saying goes, one lives on through one's offspring, and we are all the children of God.

Your Holiness the Pontifex,

The Holy See derives from the ordeal of the greatest missionary of Christianity, Apostle Paul, its superior sense of empathy with the plight of the imprisoned who carry the message of justice, freedom and universal human values. The authorities, same as those who imprisoned Paul and his disciple Saint Silas, and beat them with rods, are still reiterating the usual accusations, "And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city.'"

You have come in the name of peace and dialogue, and the words of peace and dialogue will determine what will happen to us, political prisoners, after your visit. We hope that the whiteness of your sacred robe will help brighten the prisons overcrowded with our grievances and pain.

Prisoners of Bahrain

October 17, 2022


Arabic Version