WRITING GUIDELINES

How to begin

Choose

 

Choose a prisoner to write to from the countries and profiles listed on our prisoner profile page here. You can create a print-ready or PDF version. All current information and known prison address is included in the prison profile.

 

Write

 

Write a brief letter to the prisoners you have chosen to encourage. You can use the sample letter included in the profiles or write your own using the sample letters as an example. Please be sure to follow our writing guidelines every time you write.

 

Post

 

Post your letter, being sure to use the correct international postage stamps and air mail stickers. Your NZ Post Shop can help with buying the right stamps and you can also check the NZ Post website for the correct postage rates.

 

Pray

 

Your prayers can’t be stopped by any prison door or hostile government! Pray for the prisoners you are writing to; that they will know God’s love and be reminded of their hope in Him.

 

Do –

  • Write in English and write as neatly as you are able to. Your letter must be legible to be translated (Many people study English, so there will often be someone to translate your letter).
  • Express your Christian love and tell them that you are praying for them (then do!) They, in turn, will be praying for you!
  •  Keep your letter brief and loving – one page is enough.
  •  Include Bible verses.
  •  Hand write the address on envelopes accurately and mark it AIRMAIL; make sure the postage is correct.
  •  You may include a snapshot of yourself, your family or your prayer group if you want to make your letter even more personal and special.

Please don’t

  • Do not write about politics or criticise the government.
  • Never mention the source of your information or the name of any organisation such as Voice of the Martyrs. It is not dangerous for a prisoner to receive letters from an individual, but if an organisation is mentioned, they may be accused of links with “foreign organisations” and receive even harsher sentences.
  • Use words that might imply some kind of hidden activity e.g. “thank you for the Christian work that you have done in Vietnam” might imply that the prisoner had done some covert work for a foreign organisation to subvert the government.
  • Build up hopes and expectations of prisoners – and likewise, don’t make any offer of help unless you intend to act on it!
  • Use religious jargon, sermonize, or be presumptuous about the prisoner’s situation, needs or feelings.
  • Quote verses which refer to war, fighting, armour, weapons (eg ‘the sword of the spirit’, ‘fighting the good fight of faith’, ‘the armour of God’ etc).

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WRITING TO OFFICIALS

Letters show officials that there are people who know and care what happens to prisoners. Their conditions may be improved as a result. If the authorities think no one cares, the Christian may be imprisoned with dangerous criminals, abused, deprived of food or denied rights to their mail, parcels and visits. Here are some tips for writing to government officials:

Must do’s:
  • Use the correct honorific.
  • Be polite. You are representing Jesus Christ.
  • Do not write about politics or criticize governments.
  • State a general concern for persecuted believers.
  • State a specific concern for one or more prisoners.
    (a) Whenever possible, give the full name and hometown of the prisoner(s).
    (b) State why you are concerned (perhaps they have been beaten).
    (c) State what you would like to see done (released, given medical treatment, etc.).
  • Remember to thank them in advance for their positive actions.
  • Refrain from quoting Bible verses or preaching.
  • Do NOT mention VOM or other organizations as it may be used against the prisoner.
Helpful to know:
  • It’s helpful if you find out as much as you can about the prisoner concerned, eg: when and where they were first detained and sentenced, the charges made against them and length of their sentence. Also, the prisoner’s physical condition if known and if they are allowed to receive visits from family and/or their legal help. This info is not always available, but it gives the official you are writing to credible information to go by.
  • Be brief.
  • Be yourself.

Don’t underestimate the power of your letter, your letter will show the authorities that there are people out there who know and care what happens to each prisoner. Their conditions may be improved as a result.

How to Begin and End Letter

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SAMPLE LETTERS

Sample Letters to Prisoners

Please make sure you have read the Do’s and Do Not’s before writing

Sample 1

Date

Dear Pastor/Brother/Sister

We have read of your situation and would like you to know that we are praying for your welfare and that you would be released. We are praying for your family as well that they may be able to visit you.

(add a scripture of your own here)

May the Lord bless you and may His peace be with you. Remember that the Lord has promised that, “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”.

……………………(your name)

Sample 2

Date

Dear Pastor/Brother/Sister

I have read of your imprisonment and I am praying for you. Thank you for your example of faith, love and perseverance.

Please remember that Jesus said, “All these things they will do to you for My name’s sake” (John 15:21) and “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28)

I pray that God will strengthen and protect you and that even in prison you will have opportunities to share your love and faith with others.

May God bless and keep you.

…………………….(your name)


Sample Letters to Officials

Please make sure you have read the Do’s and Do Not’s before writing

Sample 1

Dear Sir/Madame,

We are thankful that the laws and constitution in (country) allow freedom of religion.

However, we have heard that a man/woman named (name of prisoner) was put in prison at (place). We are concerned for his/her welfare. We would like to ask you to please give your attention to this matter.

Thank you very much

Yours faithfully,

…………………….(your name)

Sample 2

Your Excellency,

I respectfully request your attention in the case of (name of prisoner). He/she was arrested in (place) for sharing his/her Christian faith and on (date) was sentenced to (sentence given).

He/she is detained in the (name of prison) prison.

I am confident that your government’s international reputation will be enhanced by being seen to adhere to Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which clearly states everyone’s right to freely sharte their faith.

I appeal to you for the release of (name of prisoner) to enable him/her to continue his/her peaceful duties as a respectful citizen of your country.

Meanwhile I ask that you use your good office to ensure that (name of prisoner) is able to see his/her family.

I write in confidence of your careful attention.

Yours faithfully,

…………………….(your name)

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Find a prisoner of faith to write to: