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Prayer leaflet: Hope in the darkest night

An invitation to Christian communities to join in prayer and action

Introduction

Torture, which consists in deliberately making human beings suffer and in humiliating and breaking them, is prohibited by international law under all circumstances. In many countries, this is again expressly stated in national legislation. Nevertheless, torture is regularly inflicted today in more than half the countries of the world.

"Anyone, anywhere can be a victim of torture — regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or political persuasion. [...] It is often the case that these victims of torture and ill-treatment are from the poorest or most marginalised sectors of society. Torture feeds off discrimination. It is easier for the torturer to inflict pain on someone who is seen as less than human — someone from a despised social, ethnic or political group."

Faced with these troubling facts, Amnesty International (AI) launched a new world campaign against torture in October 2000. The International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), which, like AI, is a member of the Coalition of International NGOs against Torture (CINAT), fully supports this initiative and wishes to make its own contribution.

To coincide with this campaign, FI.ACAT and the 28 national ACATs wish to invite all Christian Churches to reiterate their condemnation of torture and all inhuman or degrading treatment, and to renew their commitment to their abolition. We would encourage the Churches to mark this special period by incorporating this intention in their prayers and activities. We would ask them to dedicate one day, or a longer period of time, to the theme of abolishing torture: specifically, Sunday 24 June 2001, the Sunday nearest to the annual International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (26 June); an alternative could be the period leading up to Easter, Passiontide, notably Good Friday.

To help you organise this period of prayer and action, FI.ACAT has prepared this booklet, which will help Christian communities (parishes, religious communities, Church action groups, prayer groups) take part in the world campaign against torture.

Prayer and action are, after all, complementary and inseparable. We can pray in different ways. We pray for those for whose release we sign petitions or write letters; in the spirit of the Gospel, we pray that torturers may experience a change of heart. We pray for ourselves too, that we may be inspired to come to the aid of victims and to act effectively.

Whatever their denomination, Christians have faith in God, who is the source of all life. They live out their faith in memory of Him, who suffered and triumphed over torture and death. It is their faith in the risen Christ that inspires their commitment to combating suffering and evil. To pray is to open oneself to the Spirit who moves "in the midst of the world".

How can the theme of torture be incorporated in community prayer? This booklet draws its inspiration from different traditions. Not all the texts need be used: each community will use those texts which best suit its way of praying, or will compose its own prayers, based on the given texts or on relevant news of the day or local concerns.

We also propose some prayers written around the experiences of people from different countries who have recently been tortured: more details of these cases can be found in a set of 14 leaflets produced in several languages by Amnesty International for its current campaign. These leaflets also suggest appropriate action. Once again, communities will draw their own inspiration from these texts, perhaps even using them as models to compose new prayers, based on other cases known to them.

Finally, prayer should ideally result in concrete action. The booklet concludes therefore with simple and realistic suggestions for action by any community or parish. More information is available, of course, from FI.ACAT or from Amnesty International’s campaign files.

Patrick Byrne
President of FI.ACAT

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