I have the honour to present a petition which has been signed by 58,789 Christians from churches of all denominations situated in all parts of this country. The petition is addressed
The Humble Petition of residents of the United Kingdom showeth
That we call for the release of Mr. Charles Bester, the 18-year old Christian gaoled by the South African authorities for six years following his refusal on conscientious grounds to join the South African Armed Forces.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House request the Government to make appropriate representations …to have Mr. Bester freed.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.
This petition has been organised by the Jubilee Campaign, which works for prisoners of conscience. Mr. Bester is an 18-year-old Anglican facing a harrowing ordeal of six years' imprisonment, which must seem like a lifetime for someone of his youth, for refusing to take up arms against his fellow countrymen.
As a Christian, he unequivocally rejects apartheid as being morally repugnant. He is supported by 93 Members of Parliament of all parties, who have signed early-day motion 176, and by the Archbishop of Capetown, Desmond Tutu, Sir Richard Attenborough and Mr. Donald Woods, all of whom sent messages of support to a meeting held in Westminster earlier today in the Jubilee Room.
I trust that her Majesty's Government will take every possible step to support the petition.