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Church of the Brethren

Closing Guantanamo, Ending an Era
January 10, 2012

On Wednesday, January 11, hundreds will gather in Washington, D.C., to mark the 10th anniversary of prisoners being detained at Guantanamo Bay – and to call on President Obama to live up to the promise he made 3 years ago to close the prison camp. You can join them, and give voice to our 2010 Annual Conference Resolution against Torture.

You can stand together with other National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) supporters and members from a broad coalition of human rights groups in this witness involving more than 2000 people, representing the estimated number of prisoners still held at Guantanamo and Bagram. January 11, 2012 will mark the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It will also be three years since President Obama pledged to close the detention facility. Congress has taken steps to prevent the closure by restricting funding and creating barriers to the transfer of prisoners. These are policies rooted in fear rather than wisdom.

Because the prison stands as an internationally recognized symbol of torture and our nation’s failure to respect the basic dignity inherent in all people, Guantanamo Bay does not make us safer but instead inspires those who seek to harm us.  It endures as a legacy of a period in which our government put its fears ahead of our values.

Put your feet, or in this case, your voice, behind our 2010 Annual Conference Resolution, and urge the Obama Administration to live up to his promise, and close Guantanamo Bay.

PRAYER FOR THE CLOSING OF GUANTANAMO

Leader: Our God and Sustainer, you have created all people – each one of us with dignity and worth, sacred in your sight.

People: Help us this day and everyday to hold that truth in our hearts and to honor it in all we do, treating every person as your unique creation.

Leader: We pray for strength for our nation’s leaders to act upon the commitment, made three years ago, to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Ten years after that arrival of the first prisoner, Guantanamo remains a prominent symbol of our nation's violation of our deepest values. We pray for the spiritual healing that our nation can experience from closing Guantanamo and putting an end to this dark and errant chapter in our nation’s history.

People: We pray for the courage, as individuals and as a nation, to do what is right even when we experience fear and uncertainty.

Leader: We pray that, as a nation, we will work to ensure that the abuses authorized and committed in our name never happen again. These abuses included the use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

People: We grieve, knowing that inflicting injustice and cruelty on even one person scars and diminishes all of us.

Leader: Our nation's use of torture has degraded victims, perpetrators, and policy makers, and has damaged the integrity of our nation.

People: We pray for strength and steadfastness in the work of repairing the world. In all things may we honor the dignity of each person.

All: Amen.  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Church of the Brethren Policy: The 2010 Annual Conference Resolution Against Torture reads,

1. Introduction

The Church of the Brethren, as a Historic Peace Church, has experienced persecution for its faith and its members have suffered violence at times in the church’s 300-year history. Torture has been one form of that violence, illustrated by the story told about elder Johannes Naas and how he was tortured for refusing military conscription.

Only recently have efforts begun to work toward reconciliation of the persecution the first

Brethren experienced in Europe, before they migrated to America—an indication of the longlasting effects of such painful experiences, even across many generations.

Personal experience of the violence of war has been one guiding factor in the Church of the Brethren’s consistent statement that “all war is sin” and its emphasis on peacemaking.

2. Biblical Basis

The sanctity of life was and is a fundamental value of our faith. According to the biblical witness we recognize the following as foundational for our conviction regarding the sanctity of life: God created human beings in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), and God proclaimed this creation “very good.” In Exodus God commands the Israelites to “not wrong or oppress a resident alien” (Ex.

22:21).

In the gospels, Jesus commands his followers not only to love their neighbors, but to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36). This same command is given through the apostolic witness as Paul exhorts the Roman believers to live at peace with others, genuinely love others, and “not be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:9-21; 13:8-10).

It is our belief and conviction that the redemptive work and purpose of God is to bring wholeness and life to all creation (John 3:16; 4:1-15; 2 Cor. 5:16-20; Col. 3:12-15). The final promise of

God accentuates the hope of all believers and illustrates the end to which God and God’s community are working (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:1-9; Rev. 21:3-4).

3. Torture is a Violation of Word and Life

We, the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, are aware of the growing occurrences of torture throughout our world. We also recognize there have been attempts to legitimize torture. Torture is a blatant violation of the tenets of our faith. It injects into our character the sense that we are better than others and dehumanizes people. It seeks to break the human spirit. In reality it devastates both the one who is tortured and the one who tortures.

4. Call to Confession, Call to Action

We, the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, find both the occurrences of torture and the attempt to legitimize the acts of torture unconscionable.

We confess allowing the rhetoric and images of torture to pass us by.

We confess ignoring the cry for justice.

We confess becoming desensitized and complacent.

We confess feeling insignificant to make a difference.

We confess not speaking in a timely manner.

We confess our inaction.

We confess our silence.

We deeply mourn the harm that has been done to all who have been tortured and have tortured.

Lord have mercy.

We will be silent no more.

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For more information about the witness ministries of the Church of the Brethren, contact Jordan Blevins, Advocacy Officer for the Church of the Brethren:

Jordan Blevins
C/O National Council of Churches
110 Maryland Ave. NE
Suite 108
Washington, DC 20002
jblevins@brethren.org
202-481-6943

 

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Church of the Brethren Action Alerts are a ministry of the denomination's Global Mission Partnerships and its witness and advocacy office in Washington, D.C., in cooperation with the National Council of Churches. Contact advocacy officer Jordan Blevins at jblevins@brethren.org . Contact Global Mission Partnerships at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 or mission@brethren.org .

2011 Church of the Brethren.