Raising The Church's Voice

No one should be tortured. Surely here is one moral issue that no rationalization can obscure. Surely this is clear: Torture should be eliminated from the face of the earth.

Yet this horrendous addiction, once abolished in most parts of the world, has returned in full force. In dozens of countries, East and West, those who dare to speak out for their religious faith or political beliefs lose their freedom and are tortured. Sometimes they die; nearly always they are damaged in body and soul.

• In El Salvador, death squads hack off people's limbs, murder them, and throw their mutilated bodies on public streets.

• In Uruguay, political dissidents are shackled in a barbecue pit and slowly roasted.

• In the Soviet Union, a dissident writer is shut up in a mental hospital, then injected with drugs that drive him into extreme anxiety.

• In Equatorial Guinea, prisoners are confined in cells too small to either stand up or sit down.

Why is there not an ongoing worldwide cry of protest on behalf of the tortured? How can people remain indifferent to this atrocious assault on human dignity? Why is there not some great, concerted refusal to condone, assist, or endorse these crimes?

A group of Christians in France asked themselves these questions at a meeting in 1974. Out of the gathering grew a large ecumenical movement, "Action des Chretiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture"--Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture--with 12,000 members, chapters in many parts of France, and an annual budget of $300,000.

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