Monday, June 11, 2012

June is Torture Awareness Month

Hebrews 13:3 (NRSV)
Remember those who are in prison,
As though you were in prison with them;
Those who are being tortured,
As though you yourselves were being tortured.

Join us at vigils nationwide on Tuesday June 26th as we remember torture victims and raise awareness about the use of torture at the domestic and international levels.

Torture is a poignant social justice concern because its use not only ignores individual rights but violates human dignity. As Christians, we believe that each individual is made in the image of God and thus has intrinsic dignity and worth. Torture then becomes “a form of intimate, humiliating terror, a crime against the human spirit and God’s image in us” (Resolution on Torture 2006). Torture occurs worldwide and is used by US affiliated organizations and individuals even though the US Government has signed and ratified conventions against its practice (UN Declaration of Human Rights, UN Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights). Awareness and accountability are necessary in order to end torture.

June is Torture Awareness Month and the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness has partnered with the National Religious Campaign against Torture (NRCAT) and various human rights organizations to coordinate events under the theme “2012 – Confronting the Culture of Torture.” NRCAT has provided a variety of resources and suggested activities for congregations. These include worship resources, DVDs with discussion guides, banners and resources for grassroots advocacy. The Resolution Against Torture, published by the PC(USA) after 217th General Assembly in 2006, is another resource you can use to inform yourself and others. Continued advocacy is needed in order to confront the culture of torture and bring the practice to an end.

We encourage you to participate in Torture Awareness Month events on the local and national level.
  • Vigils are coordinated nationwide on Tuesday, June 26th, which is the UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims. A list of local vigils can be found here. In Washington, D.C., we are hosting a screening of the new documentary “Doctors of the Dark Side” at E Street Cinemas (11th and E Streets) at 6:00pm. This screening will be preceded by a vigil at the US Navy War Memorial (8th St and Pennsylvania Ave) from 4:30pm to 5:30pm.
  • A toolkit for organizing a vigil in your area can be found here.
  • Inform yourself and others by watching these NRCAT videos “Repairing the Brokenness” (10  minutes) and “Solitary Confinement: Torture in Your Backyard” (20 minutes). Discussion guides and other resources can be accessed through the above links.
  • If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, consider joining us on June 24th for the DC March Against Torture, Guantanamo & NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) from 1-2:30pm at the Capitol Reflecting Pool.  
For a more complete list of Torture Awareness Month events, consult the Torture Awareness Month page of the NRCAT website.

“The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) opposes the use of torture and all forms of ‘cruel, inhuman, or degrading’ interrogation by all agencies, employees, or agents of the United States government, and all foreign governments and/or combatants, and supports the application of the Geneva Conventions to all enemy soldiers and the humane treatment with due process for all combatants held by U.S. forces anywhere in the world, and supports the provisions of the Bill of Rights and the principles of judicial review and congressional oversight over Executive branch operations, now including counterterrorism, Homeland Security, and domestic surveillance programs, both classified and publicly acknowledged.” (Resolution on Human Rights 2006)