The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale is co-pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, New Jersey, and president of the board of directors of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1.
Dec. 9th, 2014, was an important day for the New Jersey congregation where I am co-pastor. The Senate Intelligence Committee released the redacted summary of its so-called Torture Report to the public. It was, frankly, an answer to our prayer. We wanted to know our nation’s sins regarding post-9/11 torture so that we might seek reconciliation and newness of life.
Another prayer is answered today, this time by an unlikely source: Hollywood. We’ve prayed for Americans to be more aware of these sins, and today’s release of “The Report” brings us hope. The film, which stars Adam Driver as a Senate Intelligence Committee staffer, is the prophetic voice we’ve been praying for since 2004.
That year, our church, like people of faith across the country, was horrified by the photo of a hooded prisoner, hooked up to electric wires, standing on a small wooden block at Abu Ghraib. We were maybe even more horrified by what looked like the celebratory posture of the U.S. military soldier-torturers present at the scene. What had happened to us?
For a decade we prayed and lobbied our senators, asking that the report would be released to the American public, that we might communally learn our sins, confess our sins and move in a direction of healing, wholeness and hope.
Soon after the report was published, our congregation held a five-hour-long public reading of the redacted summary, reading 200 pages one evening with 80 people present. We lit candles for the abused, recognizing that their humanity had been denied.
We also found ourselves, over the course of the public reading, really concerned, too, with the dehumanization of the abusers. Their actions, their repeated actions of abusing others, were interrupting their humanity too.
Months later, when we learned that President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch, had not read the torture report, two of our church members went to Washington, D.C., to stand outside the Justice Department to read portions of it at the top of their lungs. Our voices were heard by a handful of people.
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Source: Religion News Service