May 18, 2005
|Courtesy of Board of Global Ministries
Kyung Za Yim (right) is president and Jan Love is top staff executive of the administrative arm of United Methodist Women.
By Kelly Martini*
YORK (UMNS)—In a letter to United Methodist Women, the president and
chief executive of the group’s administrative arm are urging members to
take a stand against torture by any government.
letter, sent May 10 by Kyung Za Yim and Jan Love, says that torture is
being allowed by the U.S. government under the guise of national
security and the war on terror, as reported by reputable organizations
such as the International Red Cross and Human Rights Watch. These groups
cite incidents at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in Afghanistan and at the Abu
Ghraib prison in Iraq.
other cases, the United States is sending prisoners to countries where
torture is often used as part of interrogation—Saudi Arabia, Syria,
Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan.
believe President Bush’s public statement—that torture is wrong—is
commendable. Yet, according to reports from human rights groups, the
practice continues," the letter says. "We hope President Bush will
uphold the Constitutional principles prohibiting ‘cruel and unusual
punishment’ and ensure that all decision makers, civilian and
military—not just those in the lowest ranks—are held accountable."
A U.S. army reservist
was convicted May 16 by a military court for her involvement in prison
abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. In January, the soldier believed to have
organized the abuse was convicted and sentenced to a 10-year term. A
colonel who oversaw the notorious prison also has been reprimanded and
fined. Photos of the abuse spurred condemnation from countries around
Kyung Za Yim
Women’s Division, part of the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, said it does not want citizens to be numbed by the abuses,
which a recent survey suggests is happening. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll
in May 2004 suggested that 54 percent of the public were bothered a
"great deal" by the acts of torture. The number had dropped to 39
percent in May 2005. Nineteen percent are saying the acts do not bother
them at all, according to polls.
former detainees testify to sexual torture, religious humiliation,
temperature extremes, electric shock, beatings, sleep and food
deprivation, injection of drugs under interrogation, denial of medical
care, and the use of cages and isolation cells.
begets violence. When we abandon basic principles of international law
prohibiting torture, we sink into barbarism, which puts soldiers,
military personnel, and civilians of all nations at risk for the same
treatment," says the Women’s Division letter.
letter praises soldiers like Spc. Matthew Carl Wisdom—son of the Rev.
Dick and Cheryl Wisdom of Christ United Methodist Church in Rockford,
Ill.—and Sgt. Joseph Darby for their bravery in exposing torture at Abu
Ghraib. The letter also notes that the soldiers have publicly anguished
over what happens to decent military personnel when the command and
control system allows torture and abuse.
recognize and affirm that most military personnel, like these men,
serve their country honorably and fulfill their duties with integrity,"
the letter says.
and Love are asking UMW members and others in the denomination to act
by educating themselves further on the issue; contacting the Council of
Bishops and requesting that they take a denominational stance; and
writing letters to editors and politicians.
164 of the United Methodist Social Principles states that "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."
denomination’s top lawmaking assembly, the General Conference, approved
a resolution last year supporting calls for a full investigation of
abuses of Iraqi prisoners. General Conference also urged adherence to
the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of prisoners of war.
Women’s Division represents United Methodist Women, an organization of
about a million members that works to foster spiritual growth, develop
leaders and advocate for justice.
*Martini is the communications director for the Women’s Division.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.