Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger was one of several officials of faith-based groups in a meeting with members of the Obama administration to discuss the issue of torture. The meeting yesterday, Dec. 13, in Washington, D.C., followed up on a letter to the administration from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) urging that the US sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
Noffsinger was one of those presenting during the meeting (read his prepared comments below). The interfaith group also included Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, and representatives of several Christian denominations and Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh groups. Representing NRCAT was executive director Richard L. Killmer alongside the organization’s president and two staff members.
Sixty-six American religious leaders including Noffsinger have signed on to the NRCAT letter calling for the United States to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). Titled, “Join the Treaty: The US Should Act to Prevent Torture Everywhere,” the letter opens with the statement, “Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are contrary to our common religious belief in the fundamental dignity of each human being. We call upon the US government, once a leader in the effort to end the use of torture, to reclaim that role by signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.”
The letter proposes that the country take steps against the use of torture by providing independent oversight of conditions in detention facilities such as prisons and police stations. “We believe that if the US joins OPCAT and provides robust oversight of its places of detention, it will be significantly more difficult for cases of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment to occur within the US. Ratifying OPCAT would also enhance our government’s effectiveness in urging other countries to end their use of torture,” the letter says.
The full text of Noffsinger’s presentation:
“Good morning. It is no surprise that a Historic Peace Church is before you to reflect on the topic of torture as our historical understanding that violence perpetrated against another is inconsistent with Holy Scriptures. Our strong beliefs have at times have placed us in peril with the communities in which we live. Thus, we have experienced violence and torture ourselves, and the price at times has been great.
“In 2010 the church proclaimed its opposition to torture stating that ‘torture is a blatant violation of the tenets of our faith.’ Torture injects into the perpetrator’s character the sense of being better than the other, that dehumanizing the other is justifiable, and that breaking of the human spirit, which is a God begotten gift, is a noble pursuit when done in the name of a nation state. We acknowledged our contemporary complacency and declared, ‘we would be silent no more.’
“I was recently an honored guest of the Vatican as a delegate to the Day of Reflection, Dialogue, and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, held in Assisi, Italy. Each delegate received a copy of the October 13, 2011, letter from President Obama that commended us to ‘interfaith dialogue, to unite in a common cause to lift up the afflicted, make peace where there is strife, and find the way forward to a better world for ourselves and our children.’ On that world stage I declared ‘my commitment to ‘urge the leaders of Nations to make every effort to create and consolidate, on the national and international levels, a world of solidarity and peace based on justice.’ I committed to working for world in which peace and justice are recognized as a human right.
“Being present today to encourage the administration and the President to discern, evaluate and eventually sign and the Senate to ratify OPCAT is an implicit responsibility as one who has heard the global community’s yearning for a Just Peace. It is my hope and prayer that ‘in the name of God, every religion bring upon the earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life.’ Thank you.”
For more about NRCAT go to www.tortureisamoralissue.org or www.nrcat.org . For the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference statement of 2010, “Resolution Against Torture,” go to www.cobannualconference.org/ac_statements/ResolutionAgainstTortureFinal.pdf . For yesterday’s Action Alert from the witness ministry of the Church of the Brethren that includes a link for voicing support for the NRCAT letter, go to http://cob.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?em_id=14601.0&dlv_id=16101 .