Serbia - Peace Chapel and Danube

This year, as PEN celebrates its 90th year, we will be holding our annual Congress in Belgrade, hosted by Serbian PEN.  The week long event brings together writers and activists from around the world to discuss key issues at the heart of PEN.  It will be my first real introduction to the world of PEN.  In thinking about our membership, spread across 144 centres in 102 countries, PEN is one of the few truly international grassroots movements.  It is unique in both its love of literature and its commitment to freedom of expression - this brings a depth to PEN work - whether it's our international and literary programmes, working with partners on education, reading or learning projects, or whether it is our campaigning work - fighting to secure freedom for writers whose lives have been threatened because of their views, their writing and their search for truth.

PEN is a truly remarkable movement - writers supporting writers worldwide.  It is with great anticipation that I look forward to meeting as many of our membership as possible in Belgrade, to hearing the ideas, concerns and aspirations of centres in the PEN network.
What is clear to me is that each day in many countries of the world writers, journalists, editors, bloggers, publishers - all face threats, suppression, violence - and we all have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with those individuals, to campaign for change, to make our voices count in the fight for freedom of expression.  Literature often causes discomfort.  It is seldom apolitical.  Writers seek out their individual truths, the truths of the societies they inhabit.
We need to use the power of our movement, of the many thousands of influential voices of PEN to stand alongside those brave enough to risk their own personal security because of their beliefs.

PEN was founded in 1921 to bring together writers across political and geographical boundaries and divides; to bring writers together to advocate for peace, for mutual understanding, for compassion.  In our 90th year I hope that we can see those values enacted in the 77th Congress.