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Faith Leaders urged to speak out against torture

Religious 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."

Last 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 intolerable.”

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 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 (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
Contact NCC News, Dan Webster, 212.870.2252 or


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