NCC commends video on secret detention and torture
New York City, September 27, 2006--"These stories are hard to watch," says the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA. He is describing a video, "Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the 'War on Terror'". It documents the stories of two men who were secretly detained, tortured and flown between countries for months without access to lawyers or representatives of their governments.
"What kind of a nation are we," asks Edgar in the introduction to the video produced by Witness, a Brooklyn-based group using videos to help human rights organizations. "Do we want to lift our nation," asks Edgar, "to higher standards and a moral commitment to civil rights, human rights and people's rights?"
The video uses personal stories of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, two men who suffered in secret detention, along with interviews of family members plus news video of U.S. government officials. The video was produced in association with 14 organizations, including the NCC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Edgar recommends the video for congregational discussion groups to address this question of torture as part of our national security policy. The NCC's Justice and Advocacy Commission says the video can stimulate conversations at an adult forum but is not suitable for children due to its description of torture.
The General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service, its partner humanitarian ministry, issued a statement at its 2005 meeting in Maryland denouncing torture. "Torture, regardless of circumstance, humiliates and debases torturer and tortured alike," the statement said in part (complete text below).
The release of the video comes at the same time a Canadian citizen, Mahar Arar, brought legal action against the United States and Canada for his secret detention and alleged torture in a Syrian jail.
The 27-minute documentary is produced by Witness [witness.org], a video production company that helps non-profit groups tell their stories in pictures. Witness was started by musician Peter Gabriel and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation. It has made several documentaries in collaboration with human rights organizations around the world.
The National Council of Churches is America's leading ecumenical voice of 35 member Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, historic African American and peace churches comprising 45 million faithful in 100,000 congregations.
A limited number of the DVD with an introduction from the NCC General Secretary is available at no charge for congregational viewing. Contact Sarosh Koshy, in the NCC's International Affairs and Peace program office, email@example.com, 212.870.3403. A donation to cover postage and handling would be appreciated.
Latest NCC News at www.councilofchurches.org
NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org
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.