Torture Is a Moral Issue: Restoring Human Dignity

June 17, 2014

Every June, human rights and faith organizations join together to commemorate June 26th as the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, and Torture Awareness Month. On that day, more than 25 years ago, the nations of the world took a major step against the immoral and abhorrent practice of torture by passing the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

This June, Columbans will join other Catholic religious orders, church denominations, and interfaith communities to honor survivors of torture, take action to ensure that the truth of the clandestine U.S. torture program after 9/11 is made public, and pray for national repentance and healing toward the restoration of human dignity for all.

Migrants and refugees are among the most vulnerable communities threatened by torture and subject to human trafficking. Every day, from Taiwan to the U.S. – Mexico border, Columbans minister to migrants who are also survivors of abuse and sometimes torture, providing them with shelter and access to medical care and legal protection.

According to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, “torture is a moral issue.” It is never justified, under any circumstances. In a 2007 letter to the U.S. Senate, the bishops emphasized: “A respect for the dignity of every person, ally or enemy, must serve as the foundation of security, justice and peace. There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic human rights of any individual incarcerated for any reason.”

As members of the National Religious Campaign against Torture (NRCAT), the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach invites you, and your local church or faith community, to join people of faith throughout the world in commemorating Torture Awareness Month. We invite you to use our toolkit to assist you and your local parish or faith community in planning educational, advocacy and worship events.

Explaining why the faith community is focusing on the release of the Senate torture report, which was adopted by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2012 and sent to the White House for declassification in April of this year, Rev. Ron Stief, NRCAT’s executive director said, “The evidence is irrefutable – the United States, without a doubt, tortured. Our nation, once regarded as a defender of human rights, broke national and international law and long-held moral codes. At no time in the eight-year history of NRCAT has the role of the faith community been more important than it is now.” We invite you to sign a petition to President Obama to release this report.

As Oscar Romero, the martyred archbishop from El Salvador, reminds us: “Nothing is so important as human life, as the human person. Above all, the person of the poor and the oppressed. . . . Jesus says that whatever is done to them he takes as done to him. That bloodshed, those deaths are beyond all politics: They touch the very heart of God.”