US Christians urged to speak out against torture
Religious leaders from a wide spectrum of faith communities across the United States are calling on their congregations to speak out against the torture of prisoners in US custody.
More than three dozen faith organizations have joined the recently launched National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), says the National Council of Churches in the USA (NCCUSA). Leaders and congregation members are signing up to support the campaign at the NRCAT website.
"The issue of torture by the United States has been of concern to Americans of faith and of conscience since the first pictures of Abu Ghraib were transmitted around the world," the Rev Dr Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCCUSA, has written to the ecumenical official bodyís 35 member denominations.
He continues: "We cannot rest until torture in the United States is a thing of the past."
Last November, the NCC's 2005 General Assembly, the annual gathering of delegates from member communions, issued A Statement on the Disavowal of Torture" (reproduced in full below). As part of the Council's ongoing initiative to stop such inhumane practices, Dr Edgar is urging each denomination to consider supporting NRCAT.
"Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear," reads the campaign's initial position statement. "It degrades everyone involved --policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable."
Thirty-eight or more national, regional and local religious organizations have joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture so far. The participating groups, including the NCCUSA, represent Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions.
Dr Antonios Kireopoulos, the NCCUSA's Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace, has been leading the ecumenical effort to stop the torture of prisoners in US custody. He serves on the NRCAT coordinating committee.
The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice in America of 35 Christian denominations in the United States, including Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches, with nearly 45-million members in 100,000 congregations.
A Statement on the Disavowal of Torture
Based upon our longstanding policies defending human rights and our affirmation of human dignity as revealed in scripture, the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service meeting in Baltimore, MD, November 8 - 11, 2005, commends the United States Senate for its recent passage of the "Anti-Torture Provisions" which came as amendments to the Defense Appropriations Act of 2006. As that bill now comes before the House of Representatives for action (H. R. 2863), we are deeply disturbed that leaders within our nation's government oppose legislation which publicly disavows our nation's use of torture anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances.
Within the core of our religious tradition are Jesus' call to love our enemies, his blessing of those who work for peace, and his instruction that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12)--a teaching found in other faith traditions as well. Both United States and international law reflect this biblical mandate, a social ethic commonly known as the Golden Rule, by upholding as core principles the right of due process and the humane treatment of all prisoners, even in times of war. As delegates to the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service, we find any and all use of torture unacceptable and contrary to US and international legal norms. We find it particularly abhorrent that our nation's lawmakers would fail to approve the pending legislation disavowing the use of torture by any entity on behalf of the United States government.
Torture, regardless of circumstance, humiliates and debases torturer and tortured alike. Torture turns its face against the biblical truth that all humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27). It denies the preciousness of human life and the dignity of every human being by reducing its victims to the status of despised objects, no matter how noble the cause for which it is employed.
We believe that any reluctance of this nation to publicly disavow torture under any circumstance not only erodes the peace of the world but even the possibility of peace, since it destroys the trust required for diplomacy and other non-violent means to seek peace. Thus, we call upon members of the US House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate by approving the legislation before it banning the use of torture by any entity of our government. Furthermore, we urge the President of the US and all members of his administration to support this legislation by affirming America's long-standing commitment to refrain from the use of torture.