International Bridges to Justice: Vishna's story

By Eric Cherry



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Vishna is a four year old boy who is like any other you will meet at that age. He is from Cambodia, and has bright brown eyes and pinchable cheeks. His circumstance is a little different; he was born in prison. His mother is held there because they cannot find her husband, his father, and so they hold her and Vishna in prison instead. What can be done about a child born in prison? Rev. Karen Tse, a Unitarian Universalist Minister living in Geneva, Switzerland, tells us that we have a way to prevent this from happening. To understand how one must first understand two things that cause stories like Vishna's: one, that 95% of injustice and torture happens to the common person who has no voice (as opposed to political prisoners or famous activists), and two, that there are already laws that Cambodia and other countries have passed that say such behavior is illegal. Such laws exist in 93 countries, as a matter of fact. Yet millions of people are tortured every year. People have been guaranteed their rights. There are laws forbidding this behavior. Political leaders around the world do not want to torture their own people. The problem is implementing these laws. Rev. Karen Tse has pinpointed the issue: torture is cheapest investigative tool. While people should have lawyers, it's expensive for developing legal systems to provide people with lawyers on a timely basis. And this is why Vishna has lived his entire life in prison. His life is not hopeless. He is actually the delight of the prison. Every day he does his best to visit every prisoner, and the guards let him! This boy is the embodiment of hope. Rev. Karen Tse took this hope and formed International Bridges to Justice in 2000. Since then, this organization has created country centers in the most populous nations to train lawyers and provide as many people as possible with legal access. It has sponsored JusticeMaker competitions which implements a brilliant legal plan that has had astounding successes. This process is not just about justice. It is about peace. Too often we find ourselves too late. Protesting a war already underway. Helping countries after war has ravaged it for years. By helping projects like Rev. Tse's, by helping JusticeMakers, we prevent conflict. When people have a just legal system there is no need for violence. We don't just wish for world peace. We make it happen. This is your invitation to be part of Vishna's hope. For the first time, we are connecting individuals and congregations with these JusticeMakers. We call this program Communities of Conscience. As Unitarian Universalists, we are about making the world a better place instead of thinking about it. By building a relationship with a JusticeMaker (like people do at or Women for Women International) you become part of a worldwide mission of justice and peace. Your congregation can become a Community of Conscience, or you can join one that helps a specific JusticeMaker. Together, we can set people like Vishna and his mother free. Join us. For more information, contact Shawna Foster, Intern for the International Office: or visit IBJ's website. [youtube=]

About the Author

Eric Cherry

Eric was the Director of the UUA’s International Office since August 2007. Prior to this Eric served for 12 years as a parish minister with UU congregations in Burlington, Iowa and N. Easton, Massachusetts. Eric has long been involved in the UU Partner Church movement, serving as the English...


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