Truth and Reconciliation

In a free society, some are guilty; all are responsible” (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel)

WSRCAT and NRCAT (National Religious Campaign Against Torture) have condemned the use of torture as a grave offense against humanity and an attack on the sacredness of each human being. We believe our leaders need to be held accountable for committing these immoral and illegal acts. However, we also believe that each one of us is responsible for our past silence. By becoming informed and taking a stand, we can rectify the wrong and act to ensure that torture is never again used by our government.

We are inspired by the approach taken by Reverend Desmond Tutu in South Africa known as Truth and Reconciliation. We do not seek a replica of what occurred there but we do emphasize that the spirit of those proceedings are relevant for us. Foremost, we call for full acknowledgment by both leaders and the larger public of the fact that our entrusted leaders, men and women in uniform, CIA personnel, some members of Congress and others were involved. We also need to grapple with the truth that many of us knew or suspected that torture was being committed but chose to remain silent. Others chose denial.

Today, in 2014, with the Senate report, we are once again called to know the truth and to act on that knowledge. Government leaders who authorized torture need to admit their involvement. We need to hold our leaders to account. We also need to know about those who tried to stop the torture, honor them, and protect future government employees who seek to uphold law and morality.

We need to reassert our collective determination never to allow our government to use torture again. In the days ahead, all of us should find ways to respond, as loudly as possible, to those who still defend what they call “enhanced interrogation.” We also need to be wary of those who claim that the decision to torture was circumstantial and that perpetrators should be forgiven without further examination or reforms.

We believe that all Americans, by acts of contrition and just action, should express remorse for our past silence and seek reconciliation with the victims of torture, their families and their larger communities. Many victims of torture were innocent of any wrongdoing; but neither do evil intentions or acts toward us justify evil in return.

Not least, we ask that we work to repair that breach within ourselves between the part that gives into fear or indifference and a better self: the self who takes seriously the Golden Rule and stands up for the human right not to be tortured. By acknowledging our weakness we can recover the part of ourselves we want to guide our personal and political lives.

Our collective responsibility must be to recognize the truth of the terrible harm that has been done in our name and to take meaningful steps toward restitution, political and legal accountability, education and prevention. Only then can the damage to our national integrity and lost respect be rectified. Only then can we begin to heal ourselves from having become bystanders to grave moral transgressions committed by our government.

Torture is a crime against humanity.


If torture is not wrong, nothing is wrong. - Rob Crawford