A few suggestions for joint prayer and action
Prayer is a time when the Spirit speaks in our hearts, leading to action.
What can we do?… We can modify our way of seeing things, of thinking and of living, according to what we have ’heard’ in prayer…We can communicate something of what we have learnt to others… We can put forward ideas to our Christian community for a group demonstration of solidarity with victims of torture.
The fight to abolish torture is not just the business of a few experts. Each one of us, each one of our groups, can play a role. But how?
You will find below some thoughts on the various ways in which your community, your parish can get involved in prayer and action.
Suggestion no. 1
Designate a time during the year to study the theme of abolishing torture, in particular to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (26 June) or the Sunday nearest to this date; or the period leading up to Easter, Passiontide, more specifically Good Friday.
Suggestion no. 2
Integrate this theme in the Sunday liturgy; organise a prayer vigil "for a world free of torture"; plan an ecumenical service with other Christian communities,
Using some prayers from this booklet or some other texts;
Mentioning in your prayers the cases described above, other cases described in Amnesty International’s campaign or some other campaigns known to you;
Describing certain worrying situations in your area or at international level, which you know about through your own contacts or the press.
There is no shortage of support material for this kind of service. One such source of useful information is a booklet published by ACAT-France, entitled "Veillez et priez" (Watch and Pray): here you will find advice on making the best use of time and space available, and how to put together a coherent liturgy.
ACAT-UK for its part has published a special "Worship Pack".
There is also a German-language booklet "Gebete, Forbitten, Psalmen" (Prayers, Intercessions, Psalms), published by ACAT-Switzerland.
Another idea would be to plan some symbolic act or gesture, which lends a particular force to a feeling or conviction which you wish to communicate to a group assembled in prayer .
Suggestion no. 3
Suggest to the members of your parish or religious community that they participate in an urgent appeal in support of victims of torture.
The following activities, for example, could take place at the end of a service, as people are leaving the church:
During its world campaign against torture, Amnesty International has produced, among other things, leaflets in several languages for distribution. They present detailed and diverse cases (some of which are summarised at point 6 above) and invite people to appeal in support of the victims.
Your national branch of AI can give you details of this or suggest more ideas for action in support of its campaign.
FI.ACAT itself publishes an Appeal of the Month in French and English: this action entails writing a letter (a model is provided) to a political or administrative authority, concerning one or more persons subjected to torture or to cruel or inhuman treatment.
You could ask each parishioner to participate in this kind of action. If there is an ACAT in your country, they will be able to give you more ideas.
Any action you might propose to your community can also be presented in the form of a petition, to be signed by as many members of the congregation as possible, and which they in turn can give to their friends and acquaintances to sign, etc.
Suggestion no. 4
Organise a time for study and reflection on the problem of torture,
By inviting a speaker who knows the subject well or who can present the aims, achievements and ongoing work of the campaign against torture;
By setting up an exhibition on torture and/or human rights, aimed at the members of your parish/community or a larger audience; putting on a concert or showing a film on the theme;
To discuss the steps your community could take to participate in these actions;
To reflect, as Christians, on our attitude to torture; on the spiritual and biblical bases for our rejection of torture, and on the responsibility of Christian communities;
To study the ways in which our society, and we ourselves, collaborate in these acts of torture or inhuman treatment, for example political or economic support for countries where torture is widespread, exclusion of and discrimination against certain groups of people, which can lead to maltreatment.
Suggestion no. 5
Visit a detention centre.
To pay a visit, even a short one, to someone who is deprived of their liberty is to show we are all one family, as described in the Gospel (Matthew, 25).
Detention centres in any one country can be very different. By definition, they are closed institutions, kept away from the public eye, and thus inevitably they will represent a higher risk of torture, a practice most often conducted behind closed doors.
When we speak of detention centres, we mostly think of prisons. People are detained there following an act, for which they are serving their sentence, or are awaiting trial in the more or less distant future.
Some "host" countries’ immigration policies have led to the creation of another type of detention centre, well known to those who work in the field of asylum rights. These are ’holding centres’, where refugees whose situations are not in keeping with the host country’s legislation are held before being sent back to their own countries, or for asylum seekers whose cases are still under review.
Contact may be established, depending on procedures which vary with each country. We therefore make no standard recommendation: each situation should be examined independently.
Suggestion no. 6
Support organisations involved in the fight against torture, for example :
Offer your community’s help to an organisation for the prevention or denunciation of torture;
Support a care centre for victims of torture (there are many of these around the world);
Offer help to organisations or collectives which defend the right to asylum of all persons fleeing from the risk of torture and persecution in their country of origin.