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Definition of Torture according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture

Why Campaign against Torture? Reason is: Jesus himself was tortured

Whoever tortures a human being,
Whoever abuses a human being,
Whoever outrages a human being
Abuses God's image,
And the church takes as its own
That cross, that martyrdom.
(Archbishop Romero of El Salvador, murdered in 1980 because of his support for the poor and suffering people of his country)


The International Day of Prayer Vigil to mark U.N. Day of Support for Victims of Torture June 26th 2016

Many European ACATs hold will be holding a prayer vigil during at least part of the night of Sunday 26th to Monday 27th and others will be holding services on the Sunday.

Please either arrange a special service, integrate at least some of the material available in to your local church’s Sunday service on 26th June or just pray on your own.

Resources

ACAT France has produced excellent resources including prayers and names of specific prisoners to be prayed for which can be found at http://www.nuitdesveilleurs.fr/-Welcome,2-

Please note the good news that that two of them, Biram Dah Abeid and Jose Marcos Mavungop, have been released in the past month

For a possible prayer vigil service click here

This year’s theme is:

This year’s theme is WHAT DID YOU DO FOR YOUR BROTHER, THE FOREIGNER?”

The theme for meditation for this year is our responsibility both as Christians and as activists to welcome foreigners who come to stay in our country. It’s a subject much in the news (although not new), but it is a subject not easy to confront! Nearly every day we talk about refugees who have fled their countries in dramatic circumstances, most often in fear of their lives.

We also often talk about these ‘foreigners’ who have settled in our country for all sorts of reasons, economic, political, family reasons, etc.; we often make a snap judgement about this, rightly or wrongly. We do not always have exemplary judgement on this subject

We often also talk about these men and women who have a different religion and who live in our country, and this debate is far from being settled. The debate is sometimes very acrimonious regarding those who continue to be looked on as ‘foreigners’, even though most of them are French... as a result, we talk more and more about ‘immigrants’ if dramatic events happen, such as have occurred in these last few months, in several countries of the world.

Looking in the Bible we see that movements of mass migration have been at the heart of God’s people throughout their history. Let us start by meditating on this passage from Leviticus (19; 33) which implicitly affirms the right of the foreigner to live in a country which isn’t his. God made the earth for all men and women

“When foreigners reside among you in your land, do not ill-treat them. the foreigners living among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself for you were foreigners in Egypt”

We are commanded to respect every man and woman. People who become immigrants are more vulnerable and this must not lead to subservience. God warned his people against such a widespread temptation. Bearing this in mind this basic injunction becomes a command to love the immigrants and support their rights. The immigrant symbolises our neighbour whom we must love as ourselves. This golden rule underlies this commandment. What we would like others to do for us, we should do unto others. Reciprocity becomes all the more important because of the history of the Chosen People “you were foreigners in Egypt”.

The commandment from Leviticus remains imperative for us. We are all the spiritual sons and daughters of the Hebrew people, we have all become sons and daughters of Abraham by divine adoption, demonstrated by the baptism. We should not forget that we are heirs of Abraham, and we can one day be called, as he was, to leave our land and go where God calls us.

Jesus also, during his public ministry, recognised that foreigners are deserving of God’s tender care. Sometimes they show us the way by the way they respond to it: “I tell you not even in Israel, have I found faith such as this” (Matthew 8; 10) “Was no one found, to return and give praise to God except this foreigner! (Luke 17; 18). At the foot of the cross, it is a Roman centurion who recognizes who he is “truly this man was the Son of God “ (e.g. Matthew 27; 54).

Jesus fulfilled this law when he declared “Come you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25; 34 to 36). We will not be judged on our faith, our practices and our prayers, but on our love shared across frontiers, love which seeks in priority those who have the most need, love for all men, love which announces the Kingdom, love which, in other words is Jesus’ continuing mission here and now.

Mark’s gospel includes a a powerful warning to move us deeply “The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light ...” (Mark 13, 24-27). This passage from the gospels which talks about “distress” is unhappily all too real today. We know that, the poor and those who suffer are always the first victims. As Christians and members of ACAT, who wish to be bringers of hope we cannot remain indifferent. One day the question will be asked of us:“What have you done for your sister and brother?”:

The foreigner is the one we are called to be attentive to and welcome as a friend and as a brother who is a gift to us from our shared heavenly Father; the foreigner is he who speaks of God to us and through whom God speaks.

The time is right because the urgent situation forces us to consider with humanity and through faith the events which destroy the dignity of millions of refugees. Looking humanely through the perspective of our faith at the lives of these exiles and refugees is to accept to pay attention to the wounds in the lives of these men, women and children... and they are many: Scorned asylum rights by summary processes, family ties broken by deliberate obstacles, arrests and forced expulsions... These signs of grave injustices, of poverty, of violence and torture developing in many countries are on our doorstep.

And let us not forget also this 26th of June on the occasion of the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture, all the victims of torture and of mistreatment, those that are condemned to death, for every human being has the right to have his dignity respected. When we, the members of ACAT intervene on behalf of people dispossessed of their rights who feel their powerlessness, who live the reality of constant suffering and sometimes imminent death, we learn the true meaning of life and the need to help them by prayer and actions.

As Christians and members of ACAT, we have a role in this difficult situation. To find our role, we need to let Christ examine us and hear him say to us “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mark 25; 40). We must do more than just listen to these words. We should put ourselves in the place of Jesus at the moment where he said that we should weigh carefully and imagine the commitment these words represents “the least of these brothers of mine”. We have to accept this role as disciples of Jesus.

We are convinced that God is calling us to live as brothers. God’s love for the world works through all of humanity pulling together to live as one. May Man meet Man, recognise in each other their innate dignity as one of God’s children, to move towards a communion of love.

Prayer is at the heart of all the actions of ACAT

The prayers of members of ACAT support people who are or have been tortured. These prayers of supplication and intercession for the tortured takes into account the perpetrators, as well as victims, as well as the monstrous systems that dehumanize the victims. Because it excludes hate, prayer attempts to close the spiral of revenge.

What can you do?

Join in The Prayers and the Night Vigils. Each year, on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture – 26th June 2016 – ACAT France organizes the Night Vigil, and an international day of prayer dedicated to the victims of torture. Others include appropriate prayers, readings and even sermons in their church worship on the previous Sunday, 25th June. On the nuitdesveilleurs.com website you can find people for whom to pray, prayer ideas, songs, meditations and readings.

Background

On 12 December 1997, by resolution 52/149, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 26 June the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with a view to the total eradication of torture. Torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being. The United Nations has condemned torture from the outset as one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellows.

The first International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was held on June 26, 1998. It was a day when the United Nations appealed to all governments and members of civil society to take action to defeat torture and torturers everywhere.

Organizations, including Amnesty International and FIACAT have played an active role in organizing events around the world to promote this day. Activities may include: photo exhibitions; the distribution of posters and other material to boost people’s awareness of issues related to human torture; and prayer vigil.

ACAT France, member of FIACAT, initiated a Prayer Vigil eleven years ago (called “La nuit des veilleurs”). ACAT UK has taken part in this action the last eight years.

uk.acat@gmail.com