Most prisoners look forward to the day they finally get released, but without some help and preparation freedom may be fleeting, according to one advocacy group. Not only do victims of crimes need support, but the criminals also need programs to assist in changing their lives.
To pay for these programs and spread the word, a benefit concert is being staged by the Prison Fellowship of the Czech Republic (PFCZ). This faith-based organization seeks to aid all people touched by crime: prisoners and their families, ex-offenders, victims of crimes, and employees of prisons and the judicial system. The Christian group was established three years ago and is affiliated with Prison Fellowship International, which oversees similar organizations in 127 countries.
The Oct. 5 concert, called Five Realities of the Wall, is the first benefit concert to be held by PFCZ or any Prison Fellowship International member. Prison Fellowship International President Timothy Khoo of Singapore said he hopes that the idea can spread to other countries. „I love the idea of the concert very much, and if it will bring fruit, other PFI countries can adopt this idea of a concert for all touched by crime as well,“ Khoo said.
Gabriela Kabátová, the executive director of PFCZ, said she believes that the event, while aimed to benefit those impacted by the prison system, should in fact help everyone in society by way of bringing them together through music. „If we do not care properly for offenders, they will repeat the crimes. It is necessary to use one’s time in prison to teach and offer better ways of life. The inner-change programs in prisons are essential for all of society,“ Kabatova said,
Five Realities of the Wall
With Obrysy, Janberi, Aquavita
Oct. 5 at 5 p.m.
Salesiánské divadlo, Kobyliské nám. 1, Prague 8
„The concert will bring together people who naturally are not friends: offenders, victims of crime, ex-offenders and justice system representatives. The concert should help to build bridges among people and show that there are different ways that can help decrease the numbers of crime and bring healing to victims and families‘ children,“ she said.
PFCZ runs a multitude of programs including faith-based programs for prisoners preparing to re-enter society. Inside the prison, the PFCZ’s work is geared toward prisoners who are to be released within the next few years.
The concert will feature Czech bands Obrysy and Janberi as well as the Swiss band Aquavita. The bands‘ music has a spiritual emphasis that aligns with PFCZ’s mission.
Obrysy held a concert inside a prison this year and is interested in doing more.
Aquavita is also rather familiar with the PFCZ mission as they travel regularly to different prisons throughout Europe playing music as their method of ministry. „We play regularly in Swiss Prisons but wish to go more and more abroad. Thus, we have spent one week in Bulgarian prisons in 2009 and in 2010. We naturally also went to our neighbor country, France, to prisons as we are a French-speaking group,“ Aquavita keyboardist Philippe Ziehli said.
Kabátová said she hopes that the concert will help refocus society on the benefits of inner-change work inside of prisons. „I want the concert to also point to the reality that during the communist time, two generations of Czechs could not care for prisoners and ex-offenders. All was done by the state and to go to prison at all was forbidden,“ Kabatova said.
She said one goal of the concert is to remind people of the importance of visiting those in prison and helping them to re-assimilate into society when they are released. „If the very atheistic Czech society can see the example of believers who have mercy with homeless people, with inmates, with children of inmates, then something can change positively in all of society. But someone must start the change,“ she said.
Five Realities of the Wall is a charity event that is free to attend but donations will be accepted during the concert or at any time through the PFCZ webpage atwww.prisonfellowship.cz.
In addition to collecting donations for prisoners themselves, PFCZ organizes Angel Tree, a program that collects Christmas gifts for children with incarcerated parents.