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Come Together to Combat Torture

By admin - Posted on 18 February 2011

by Becky Garrison 02-16-2011
published in the Sojourners Blog Feb. 16

The New Evangelical Partnership is a co-sponsor of this event. David Gushee and Richard Cizik will both be speaking, and a breakfast reception for NEP friends will be held on Saturday, March 26th. Please register for this important conference at

Duke Divinity School is hosting an inter-faith conference on torture from March 25 to 26, with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), the Duke Human Rights Center, and the North Carolina Council of Churches. When I spoke to the faculty coordinator, Dr. Amy Laura Hall, she exclaimed, “It’s about damn time, but better late than never!” I then asked her a few questions relating to this event:

How did this conference come into being?
A group of attentive students and a local clergyman noted last semester that many Christians around the country have managed to avoid attention to the tragic details of our two wars — the use of torture, the military suicide rate, the number of civilians killed. Many of our current seminary students do not even have a friend or family member who has dealt personally with these brutal specifics. Many come from an economic bracket that hasn’t been recruited for enlistment. Isaac Villegas, Matt Elia, and Dr. Kara Slade came up with the Proper29 Project, to encourage seminary graduates around the country to preach about war on Christ the King Sunday. We wanted, in Matt’s words, “to turn people’s eyes” toward news we don’t really want to see. Many of us who can avoid looking at torture have been averting our eyes, I’d say, trying hard just not to look. When George Hunsinger (of Princeton Seminary) called us to ask about collaboration with NRCAT, we jumped at the chance.

Why is this conference necessary right now?
Duke University is still a Methodist school. The president who apparently said “damn right” to a practice that simulates drowning at the hands of another person is a United Methodist. He wasn’t a lone ranger. He had been formed in a way that allowed him to be persuaded that this practice is morally necessary to keep women and children safe. Due to a very effective campaign of fear, many Christians in the United States have tacitly accepted torture as a practice we must just, well … both ignore and accept. We don’t really want to look at what has been done to other human beings, ostensibly to keep us safe. Or we want to watch a controlled narrative of brutal necessity, like on that show “24.” That show is pure genius. I can’t tell you how many times I have now heard the scenario of a terrorist-in-the-know and 100 innocent (or not-knowing) people about to be blown to bits if we don’t just pull up our big girl pants and accept torture as a moral responsibility. Brilliant. The propaganda worked on many Christians. I think the time is way overdue for a correction.

Explain the speaker line-up and format of the conference?
The conference is intentionally inter-faith. We are hosting Evangelical Christian and Muslim speakers together, for example, along with activists and journalists. I confessed to a Muslim friend recently that I am having trouble keeping up and staying sane reading about all that is being done to Muslims around the world in the name of our “war on terror.” He said, gently, “Welcome to my world.” This event will allow people who have been able to live in a different, isolated world to learn more about the specific facts of torture in the U.S. prison system and in U.S. connected programs of control around the world. This is a chance to catch-up and learn about specifics and, importantly, about steps for change. I am personally truly honored to be hosting Ingrid Mattson, the recent president of the Islamic Society of North America. Dr. Mattson will be speaking alongside Dr. Hunsinger, a Christian who was intent, early on, to pay close attention to what was being done in the name of “security.” I am eager to hear their witness.

Read the rest of this post at the Sojourners Blog.

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