17 September 2009

can we say "never again"?

With all the sound and fury of the health care debate grabbing our attention, there’s an issue still lingering in the background. How seriously are we going to investigate torture, which is illegal in both US and international law? Gay Gardner, an Amnesty International member, expresses some things in her letter to President Obama that I often have felt. This is part of Amnesty’s “Ten against Torture” action:

“As a human rights activist and volunteer member of Amnesty International for more than 25 years, I have worked against torture, and to end impunity for torture, in many countries. I never expected that there would come a time when the United States would be the principal focus of my human rights work. It saddens me to hear from current and former officials of my own government many of the same arguments justifying torture and advocating impunity for its practitioners that were made in so many other societies that have grappled with torture and its aftermath…

“We can and must demonstrate to ourselves and to the world that we are strong enough to look at the ugliness in our past and determine how to rectify it. This task is a vital part of strengthening our powers of moral suasion with other countries, which will be needed to help solve a host of global challenges. We must show the world that we understand how serious torture is and that we are committed to preventing it in the future. Hiding from our past will project weakness and fear, not confidence and strength.”

For me, this isn’t just political; it’s also an expression of spirituality. Those of us who would worship Jesus Christ must also admit that he is one who was tortured. He was condemned by the state, and considering the crowd he was attracting to himself, it’s not beyond the realm of possibly to see how he could be considered guilty.

As Gardner says, she—and I—hear the exact same arguments and excuses coming from our current leaders that we’ve heard coming from dictatorships all over the world. In his death on a cross, Jesus was executed as the lowest of the low—the worst of criminals. In those tortured today, Jesus is tortured yet again.

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