Say no to torture in the name of human dignity

Jun 21, 2023 | Blog Articles

If the pope asks to pray for the abolition of torture, it is because it is still going on in the world today. The 1984 UN Convention Against Torture has been ratified by 173 states to date, but there is still a long way to go, even in the countries that have signed it. Resorting to torture tramples the fundamental respect of the person, degrading those who practice it and sows in the world the poison which keeps it alive.

Torture is intentional harm that affects the physical, mental, social and relational integrity of victims. It is a trauma that has serious effects on their future. Intense pain is inflicted to obtain information, “confessions,” or financial advantages, by humiliating, breaking their resistance and by terrorizing. It is the work of individuals, groups – mafias, drug cartels, terrorist organizations – and even States. For example, gangs can subject migrants to torture in order to ransom families who were witnesses. This can be done with the complicit passivity of States anxious to limit migration.

Faced with this reality, the pope turns our attention to the most universal, “the international community,” and to the most concrete: “the victims and their families.” The term “international community” brings to mind the consultation between countries and continents in the service of peace, justice and respect for human rights. This consultation is possible because there is a conscience in the heart of man which calls for good by resisting what is not worthy. It is this higher force that must be invoked and mobilized to counteract the lower forces at work in the world and in everyone. Historic treaties are necessary but not sufficient to achieve the eradication of torture. It takes a daily will. Turning to the victims and their families, providing them with support and compassion, acting with States is the concrete way to say no to torture and together achieve its abolition in the world.

Whoever enters a church is welcomed by the representation of Jesus on the cross. The artist, according to his sensitivity and the time, sculpts a tortured man, a sleeping man, a plague victim, a man who has gone through death. For Christians, looking up to the crucified, tortured, risen Christ is central. It tears us away from the fascination of violence and death.

May the Sign of the Cross move our hearts throughout this month, in view of June 26, the International Day for the Abolition of Torture and in Support of Victims.

Fr. Daniel Régent, S.J.
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (France)

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