Prayer is an integral part of ACAT, Action by Christians
for the Abolition of Torture.
"Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground" - Genesis 4,10.
"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are illtreated as if you yourselves were suffering." Hebrews 13,3.
In 1974, two sixty-year-old Protestant women, Hélène Engel and Edith du Tertre, deeply distressed by accounts of torture in South Vietnam, decided to make the Christian churches aware, by reference to the Gospel, of the scandal of torture. Outraged by the failure of Christians to react to this problem, they founded an ecumenical group in order to alert churches of all denominations.
To their great surprise, the project was well received everywhere. ’Christians at last!’, exclaimed one of the leaders of the French section of Amnesty International, which, at that very point in time, was launching a world-wide campaign to arouse awareness of the problem. Hélène and Edith’s project took shape all the more quickly in that several French organizations and the World Council of Churches were concerned at the increase in torture in many countries; there was talk of a ’torture epidemic’. In the summer of 1974 Tito de Alencar, a 29-year-old Dominican who had been severely tortured in Brazil in 1969-71, committed suicide in a French convent. In prison he had written: ’Wherever a human being suffers, it is the Master who suffers. It is time for our bishops to say: "Enough!" before it is too late. The Church cannot remain silent. If the Church does not intervene, who will? At this time, silence is failure to act. The Church should be a sign and sacrament of God’s justice in the world’.
Christians from many different confessions are showing their commitment.
From the very beginning, the ACATs were ecumenical in spirit and tried to bring together Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and other Christians. They are independent of mainstream church structures and do not belong to any ideological or economic political group.
Prayer lies at the heart of our work.
Within a Christian framework, the ACATs believe that prayer plays a central role in their work. Prayer is not an excuse, nor merely a passive gesture, but rather a means by which we can show that we recognise poverty and human frailty. By praying for the victims of torture and for those who inflict torture, we are also praying that victims will be freed and for man’s reconciliation with God.
Prayer is free of all hatred, and so helps end the spiral of vengeance. But it does not stand in the way of justice and sanctions.
Through prayer, we praise God and express our hopes for all those who show individual courage. We refuse to resign ourselves and instead celebrate actions that have led to people being freed.
Sometimes, we recognise that, just as in the Parable of the persistant widow in the Gospel, many powerful bodies have been involved in achieving these results.
You will find some suggested texts and prayer leaflets. To find your language, you can also consult the website of your national ACAT