Message from Dr. Konrad Raiser, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches in support of the International Campaign Against The Practice of Torture
(Sent Monday 12 February 2001 to the International Federation of Actions by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FI.ACAT))

The practice of torture became more widespread during the peak of military dictatorships and authoritarian rule in the 1970ís and 80ís. With the end of the Cold War and the popular demand for democratization and political reforms in the regions, it was hoped that this practice would disappear. This, however, did not happen and torture is still prevalent in many parts of the world. It is now not only practiced by the security forces of the state, but also by private armed groups that are at war not only with the state but also amongst themselves

The decision therefore of Amnesty International to launch a world-wide campaign against the practice of torture is not only timely but also significant. The campaign has the backing of the International Federation of Actions by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FI.ACAT), an organization known for its dedicated and valuable work in this area directly with the victims. This campaign coincides with the World Council of Churchesí launch of the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence. The Decade to Overcome Violence was established at the Eighth Assembly at Harare 1998 to "work strategically with churches on these issues of non-violence and reconciliation to create a culture of non-violence linking and inter-acting with other international partners and organizations, and examining and developing appropriate approaches to conflict transformation and just peace-making in the new globalized context".

For Christians the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Life. When life is crushed and forces of evil and darkness are free to maim and kill, Godís reality is ignored and denied. The cries of the victims are echoed in the plea: "how long, oh Lord, must I bear pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart? (Ps. 13:1-2).

The most atrocious violation of human rights is the deliberate defiling of the physical integrity of the human person. It seeks intentionally to destroy the victim's self-respect not only for the moment of torture but for a lifetime. Such acts are often carried out with the connivance of state officials, including even medical personnel who thereby violate their own professional oath never to harm. Freedom from torture is a fundamental right guaranteed under national and international human rights laws that holds governments responsible for its prevention and to investigate and punish those guilty of such practices.

The WCC Central Committee, was aware of the horrendous implications of this evil when it said in1977: "Today we stand under Godís judgement, for in our generation the darkness, deceit and inhumanity of the torture chamber have become a more wide-spread and atrocious reality than at any other time in our history."

Given the increase in the incidences of torture, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Life of the World, we reaffirm the common commitment of the member churches joined in the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, and urge them to work even more vigorously for the elimination of torture in all its forms, both where they live and witness and internationally. In so doing, we stand in solidarity with FIACAT and the many civil society organizations working to abolish torture. Together we can be instruments for the fulfillment of God's promise that every human being may experience the abundance of life God intended and enabled to live free of fear and in dignity as persons created in God's holy image.

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