ON-Lion Letter

Armando Valladares, whose New York Times bestselling memoir of 22 years in Fidel Castro's gulags has been translated to 18 languages, is the 2016 recipient of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty's highest honor, the Canterbury Medal.

Valladares, who has been hailed as "heroic" by Nobel laureate Holocaust survivor and fellow Medalist Elie Wiesel, was arrested in Cuba and imprisoned at 21 years of age for refusing to put up a placard that said:  "I am with Fidel." 

He spent 22 years in prison for that simple act of dissent.  Eight of those years he spent naked in solitary confinement in a windowless and mosquito-infested cell, where guards regularly doused him with buckets of human excrement.

Valladares was tortured with relentless beatings and endured several hunger strikes, one of which left him wheelchair bound for years.  Despite all this, he began to write poetry, which his wife smuggled out and published to critical acclaim.  She led an international campaign for his release, and Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience.  He was released in 1982, thanks to the intercession of French President Francois Mitterrand.

He devoted his life to the defense of human rights, going on to serve as a human-rights ambassador to the United Nations.  He recently wrote:  "America, perhaps more than any other nation in the world, understands and defends the sanctity of the human mind and the beliefs that flourish and guide it.  We are still a beacon to the men and women that languish in their jail cells for holding steadfast to their beliefs and for refusing to violate them despite intimidation in places where tyrannical thugs or ISIS zealots reign with terror."

The Canterbury Medal Dinner boasts the most-distinguished religious leaders and advocates of religious liberty throughout the world.  This year's black-tie gala will be held in May in New York.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports The Becket Fund.

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