Faith Leaders urged to
speak out against torture
leaders from a wide spectrum of faith communities across America are
calling on their congregations to speak up against the torture of
prisoners in U.S. custody.
More than three dozen faith organizations,
including the National Council of Churches, have already joined the
recently formed the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT).
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,” wrote National Council of
Churches General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, to the ecumenical
group’s 35 member denominations. “We cannot rest until torture in the
United States is a thing of the past."
November the NCC’s 2005 General Assembly issued “A Statement on the
Disavowal of Torture” [complete text below]. As part of the Council’s
ongoing initiative to stop such inhumane practices, Dr. Edgar is urging
each member denomination to support 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
At least 38 national, regional and local religious organizations have
joined NRCAT. The NCC is a participating member. The groups represent
Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions.
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, the NCC's Associate General Secretary for
International Affairs and Peace, has been leading the NCC’s efforts to
stop the torture of prisoners in the custody of our country. He serves
on the NRCAT coordinating committee.
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
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 (Mt.
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 U.S. 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 (Gen. 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 U. S. 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 U. S. and all
members of his administration to support this legislation by affirming
America’s long-standing commitment to refrain from the use of torture.
Contact Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos,
212.870.3422 or email@example.com
Contact NCC News, Dan Webster, 212.870.2252 or