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U.S. churches join UN call to end torture

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While the international community banned torture through the International Bill of Human Rights in 1948, the practice continues worldwide.

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At least 81 countries had documented cases of torture and "other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" in 2007, according to Amnesty International.
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The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) based in Copenhagen, Denmark estimates there are 400,000 torture survivors living in the European Union while the Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis, Minnesota estimates there are 500,000 torture survivors in the United States.

The IRCT has produced an animation "Let's erase torture" calling for the eradication of torture worldwide and in tandem with the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26.
The U.S. faith community has become increasingly vocal in its call for an end to torture.

"It is crucial for people of faith to remind the President that the United Methodist Book of Discipline clearly states that "the mistreatment or torture of persons by governments for any purpose violates Christian teaching and must be condemned and/or opposed by Christians and churches wherever and whenever it occurs," according to a statement from the United Methodist Church (UMC).

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"Torture has to stop throughout the world, but the United States is unable to effectively lead the fight against such brutality until the U.S. has repented of engaging in actions of torture," states UMC.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture  has organized a "public witness" against torture involving 300 congregations in all 50 states for the month of June. 

Church leaders across the country have come out more aggressively this past year in urging their congregations to pressure the U.S. government to end torture on moral grounds.

"The church should be loyal to the deepest values of our country," said Dallas, Texas Rev. William McElvaney , professor emeritus at the Perkins School of Theology, speaking on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. "No one relishes going up against the White House, but the church should be loyal to the deepest values of our country. And sometimes that means opposing the actions of a particular administration."

 

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.-She publishes www.fleshandstone.net, a health and science news site.

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