The document, ‘Torture is a Moral Issue,’ has been published on 13 June 2006 as an advertisement in The New York Times. It proclaims that torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear.
What is particularly significant about the initiative is that it has the endorsement of leading evangelicals – who some believe are more likely to catch the ear of President Bush and his advisers than ecumenical, mainstream and inter-religious voices.
The Rev Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Rick Warren, pastor and author of the runaway bestseller The Purpose Driven Life, and Dr Glen Stassen, Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, are among the prominent evangelicals to have endorsed the advert.
Organised by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), the signatories include: Nobel laureates ex-President Jimmy Carter and Elie Wiesel; Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Catholic Archbishop of Washington, DC; the Rev Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (associated with Martin Luther King, Jr); Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Centre of Reform Judaism; Dr Frank Thomas, pastor and editor of The African-American Pulpit; and Dr Sayyid Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America.
NRCAT bridges theological and political divides by uniting mainstream Protestants and Evangelical Christians; Muslims with Reform and Conservative Jews; Orthodox and Roman Catholics; Sikhs and members of the peace churches (Mennonites, Brethren in Christ and Quakers).
Fuller seminary’s Glen Stassen, a leading ethicist, declared: “Evangelicals are Christ-centred. Not that nobody else is, but we are; and the cross was humiliation and torture. This is an important reason why we are against torture.”
From an Islamic perspective, Dr Sayyid Syeed added: “The Qur’an clearly emphasizes the dignity of all human beings that must be maintained at all costs.”
And Jewish Rabbi Saperstein said: “All of humanity is created in the image of God. Torture is a profound violation of this principle.”
“There is a special dignity in every human being that comes from the fact that we are brothers and sisters in God’s one human family,” commented Cardinal McCarrick, a senior American Roman Catholic leader.
He went on: “Torture is a dehumanizing and terrible attack against human nature and the respect we owe for each other.”
The ecumenical movement is also centrally involved. “There are few other issues on which the NCC’s 35 member communions are more united,” said National Council of Churches USA general secretary, the Rev Dr Bob Edgar.
He explained: “The use of torture or other dehumanizing measures is diametrically contrary to the love of God and the gospel of Jesus. One of the ideals of the United States is to stand in the world as a bastion against torture.”
Country-wide, regional and local religious organizations and congregations have already joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
NRCAT will continue the “Torture is a Moral Issue” campaign by encouraging people of faith across the United States to endorse the statement. It can be found on the organisation’s website.
© 2006 Ekklesia. Posted on Religioscope with permission. An initiative of the Anvil Trust, Ekklesia is a not-for-profit think-tank which works to promote theological ideas in the public square. Website: www.ekklesia.co.uk