TASSC Torture Survivor Vigil

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF represented FAN at a survivors vigil on June 22 sponsored by the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition. Read her moving comments below:

I am humbled to be in the presence of men and women who have survived torture. As one who has never undergone torture, I am inspired by their stories and their strength to speak out against the practice of torture everywhere, at all times, for whatever reason. Franciscan Action Network partners with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture to educate and advocate for an end to torture. We believe that torture is a moral issue. Every major faith tradition holds that love of God and neighbor is a core belief—the Golden Rule, treat all others as you want to be treated yourself. This command is clear, direct, unequivocable.

So why must we, in the 21st century, in the United States of America, once more raise up Torture Awareness Month? With all our intelligence, achievements, and enlightenment as a society, it is incongruous that we must gather outside this symbol of US power and leadership, to claim such an obvious truth, that the practice of torture is wrong, by any group or country, including our own. 

In this country that we love and whose past and promise will be celebrated in a few days on July 4,  torture is banned. The 8th Amendment to our Constitution, ratified in 1791, prohibits the federal government from imposing “cruel and unusual punishment, including torture.” The Supreme Court has ruled that the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause also applies to the states. In 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order halting torture. We do NOT cut off people’s hands for stealing; we don’t pull out fingernails or do genital mutilation; we no longer have whipping posts. BUT a US agency has in recent years employed water boarding, claiming that it is NOT torture. Many officials and citizens maintain that torture is justified in obtaining critical information from suspected terrorists, even though experts dispute the claim that torture results in reliable information. We continue to detain prisoners in Guantanamo without hope of a trial or removal to a US prison or return to their home countries. After 11 years, Guantanamo has become a shameful symbol of US torture.

NRCAT also works against solitary confinement in this country, where tens of thousands of prisoners are subjected to prolonged periods of weeks, months, and even years, in isolation from human contact. Many studies have documented the severe psychological effects of prolonged solitary confinement, including forms of insanity, self-mutilation and suicide. Solitary confinement disproportionately impacts people of color, and affects immigrants held in detention. Certainly this practice qualifies as “cruel and unusual punishment.” 

Our government is right to protect survivors of torture from other countries.  It is right to denounce and work to end human trafficking which is modern slavery. At the same time, we must acknowledge that our country engages in torture and work to end it. Francis of Assisi, in whose footsteps FAN follows, admonished his followers that while they—while we—preach peace to others, we must have it in our own hearts. We can adapt this admonition to say that while we, the United States of America, denounce torture by others, we must also reject it in our own hearts, minds, and practices. Thank you, brave survivors of torture, for bringing this lesson home to us. 

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Published in: on July 1, 2013 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

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