PARIS, 28 May 2018 (VCHR) –The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) mourns the passing of Alvin (“Al”) L. Jacobson, a dedicated human rights advocate and true friend of Vietnam. He died at his home in Cambridge, Massachussetts (USA) on May 21st 2018 at the age of 76, after a long battle against leukemia. In January 2018, he decided to renounce hospital treatment and spend his last days in the company of his family and friends.
“Al Jacobson worked tirelessly for the release of prisoners of conscience, in Vietnam and elsewhere, with passion, compassion and tenacity. His life and work are an inspiration to all human rights defenders” said VCHR President Võ Văn Ái.
Al Jacobson had a distinguished and varied career as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, then working in consulting and the financial services industry. In the 1970s he co-founded Amnesty International’s Group 56 in Lexington. His involvement with Vietnam lasted 16 years, beginning in 2002 when his group adopted Thích Huyền Quang, then Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) as a prisoner of conscience. After Thích Huyền Quang’s death under house arrest in 2008, Group 56 took up the case of his successor, Thích Quang Độ, who they continue to support today. During these years, VCHR worked closely with Al Jacobson to provide information and ideas for the group’s actions, which included hundreds of letters to members of the US Congress, the President, State Department, media and to CEOs of US companies doing business with Vietnam. Amongst his latest campaigns, Al Jacobson sent 70 letters calling for the release of Thích Quảng Độ to a European Parliamentary delegation visiting Vietnam, and mobilized high school students from Lexington to send messages of support to Thích Quảng Độ, which VCHR helped to deliver to the UBCV Patriarch without being intercepted by the Police.
When Al was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, Thích Quảng Độ sent these words of sympathy and thanks: “It is in times of illness or misfortune that one realizes the importance of friendship and solidarity. They are as precious as the air we breathe. I learned this myself through my long years in internal exile, prison and under house arrest. The authorities can detain, isolate and humiliate you, but they cannot take away the inner warmth nurtured by the sentiment that you are not alone.
“You have worked so hard for my release over so many years, often with absolutely no recognition or reply. Your determination has helped to sustain mine, and strengthen my commitment to struggle for human rights and freedom in Vietnam. For I believe that nonviolence and compassion will overcome hatred and repression, and I will pursue this path, whatever the consequences. I send you these few words to let you know that I am beside you in your ordeal, as you are in mine.”
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