A Fight against Torture

The Christian Century, April 11, 2001 | Go to article overview

A Fight against Torture


Torture, a shameful part of history often thought repeated only by the cruelest of contemporary regimes, nevertheless is regularly inflicted today in more than half the world's nations, according to an international Christian movement endorsed by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican.

The International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FI.ACAT) links 28 national "ACATs" around the world. The movement is particularly strong in France where the first ACAT was founded by two Protestant women after Amnesty International held the world's first international conference against torture in Paris in 1973.

Claiming a following of 30,000 people, the Paris-based federation of autonomous chapters has a presence in 27 other countries, including 12 in Africa. The newest ACATs were recently set up in the Czech Republic and Haiti.

Patrick Byrne, president of FI.ACAT for the last two years, told Ecumenical News International in Geneva on March 23 that his organization believes that churches should be doing more to fight torture. As its contribution to Amnesty International's campaign against torture, launched in October, FI.ACAT is inviting "all Christian churches to reiterate their condemnation of torture and all inhuman or degrading treatment, and to renew their commitment to their abolition."

To assist congregations during the campaign, a 100-page booklet published by FI.ACAT, "Hope in the Darkest Night," mentions specific cases of torture in six countries--Iran, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, Kenya and Hungary. The booklet, published in English and French, also includes a prayer about the torture inflicted on Jesus Christ in his crucifixion.

A Scottish-born translator based in Luxembourg, Byrne said that ACATs are calling on Christians to pray for both the victims of torture and for "the torturers--that they will have a change of heart." Another element of the work is education to eliminate social attitudes that have allowed torture to continue. …

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