by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Peace be with you! It is an honor to join my remarks with those of Rev. Jim Wallis and U.S. Representative John Lewis on this august occasion and to join with Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. King, whose presence honors this two-day event.
Letters deserve a response, and in fact, some demand one. Such is the letter that we gather to remember. Fifty years ago in this city of Birmingham, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sent a letter, actually a reply to one that he had received from religious leaders at the time. Making use of the edges of newspapers and stubs of pencils available to him in the jail, Reverend King set out what has become a classic letter, quoting from Socrates to St. Paul and St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas. This letter, which is rich in foundations of scripture and human philosophy, direct, and prophetic, gave a rationale for strong action as well as marching orders for the steps we must follow to lift us, as the letter states, “from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.” Rightly, he uncovered the words of St. Thomas Aquinas that the unjust law is “the human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law” and so is, as Dr. King says, “out of harmony with the moral law.”
Though at that time I was only 16 and taking my seminary entrance examination in my home state of Pennsylvania, I can look back to his response to religious leaders of that day, who had cautioned him against action that they claimed was “unwise and untimely.” We now see clearly his response as true wisdom, whose time had long since come.
Such a letter deserves a response …
Click here to read the entire response.
by Bob Cooke, Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore
As you probably know, widespread hunger strikes broke out at the Guantanamo prison camp almost 90 days ago. Our country’s leaders, as demonstrated by President Obama’s remarks deploring the situation last week, have started paying attention. But we need to make sure our elected officials act quickly and decisively before any of the hunger strikers die.
A small delegation, including two Pax Christi members, visited Congressman James Moran (D-VA) last Tuesday and Congressman Moran offered to host a Congressional briefing which will take place on Friday morning, May 10th at 10am. Please contact your Member of Congress immediately (preferably no later than Thursday morning) and ask them:
- To send at least one staff member to this Guantanamo Congressional Staff briefing;
- To help stop the hunger strike by taking concrete action to quickly release Guantanamo detainees who have already been cleared for release;
- To close Guantanamo completely by transferring those who are not cleared for release to the U.S. for speedy and fair trials.
For more information on the Congressional briefing, click here for a PDF of the invitation. Let’s make it a goal for PCUSA members around the country to call each of the 435 Members of Congress and ask them to send a staffer!
In support of this effort, we hope you’ll take a look at this Prayer-Study-Action e-bulletin.
from Morris Davis, former Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay
I served 25 years in the US Air Force, I was the Chief Prosecutor for the Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years, and now I need your help.
I personally charged Osama Bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan, Australian anathema David Hicks, and Canadian teen Omar Khadr. All three were convicted … and then they were released from Guantanamo. More than 160 men who have never been charged with any offense, much less convicted of a war crime, remain at Guantanamo with no end in sight. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system where not being charged with a war crime keeps you locked away indefinitely and a war crime conviction is your ticket home.
As of April 29, 2013 – 100 of the 166 men who remain in Guantanamo are engaged in a hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention. Twenty-one of them are being force-fed and five are hospitalized. Some of the men have been in prison for more than eleven years without charge or trial. The United States has cleared a majority of the detainees for transfer out of Guantanamo, yet they remain in custody year after year because of their citizenship and ongoing political gamesmanship in the U.S.
That is why I am calling on Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to effect cleared transfers from Guantanamo and on President Obama to appoint an individual within the Administration to lead the effort to close Guantanamo. Obama announced on April 30 that he plans to do his part to close Guantanamo, but he has made this promise before. Now is the time to hold him to his promise and urge him to take the steps necessary to dismantle Guantanamo Bay Prison.
If any other country were treating prisoners the way we are treating those in Guantanamo we would roundly and rightly criticize that country. We can never retake the legal and moral high ground when we claim the right to do unto others that which we would vehemently condemn if done to one of us.
It is probably no surprise that human rights and activist groups like the Center For Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International have been outspoken critics of Guantanamo. It may surprise you that a former military prosecutor and many other retired senior military officers and members of the intelligence community agree with them.
The Patriotic thing, the American thing, the Human thing to do here is to Close Guantanamo.
Please join us in the fight by signing this petition.
by Art Laffin
the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House
The biblical admonition “to proclaim liberty to captives” (Luke 4:18) has taken on critical urgency with respect to the 166 prisoners being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. To protest their unjust indefinite detention and dehumanizing mistreatment, many prisoners are now in the third month of a hunger strike, and with each passing day, their health deteriorates.
On April 13, prison guards moved prisoners from communal housing to individual cells. As some prisoners resisted, guards used less-than-lethal rounds to subdue them, according to military spokesmen. It is not known how seriously injured these prisoners may be.
Adnan Latif, who spent more than 10 years in Guantanamo without being charged, would often go on a hunger strike to protest his unjust confinement. A Yemeni citizen, poet, father and husband, Latif was subject to severe beatings, druggings and torture. He had been cleared for release at least four separate times, yet continued to be imprisoned. On Sept. 8, Latif was found dead in his cell. He is one of the nine men to die at Guantanamo. No independent investigation has been conducted into any of these deaths. In Latif’s own words, he asks: “Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?”
How many more prisoners will die before justice is rendered on their behalf? People of faith have a special moral responsibility to make sure these men do not die. What can be done to save the lives of these prisoners?…
Click here to read the rest of this article on NCR’s website.
by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
On Saturday, U.S. military prison guards at Guantanamo fired rubber bullets at prisoners to try and stop their ongoing hunger strike. The prison reaction only exacerbates the situation. Reports indicate that many of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo have been on a hunger strike since Feb. 6. (Although the U.S. military acknowledges 43 strikers, lawyers say the number is well above 100.) At least 13 are so thin and weak that they are being painfully force-fed. The United Nations Human Rights Commission has declared force-feeding prisoners “a form of torture,” so one could argue the U.S. torture at Guantanamo continues at this very moment.
The grave injustice of Guantanamo must end immediately. President Barack Obama and the U.S. government need to address the issues of the hunger strikers now before a prisoner dies. The death of one of these prisoners will turn millions more around the world against us. Even if U.S. officials do not care for human rights, prisoners’ deaths will be disastrous for the U.S.
But the demands of the hunger strike are perfectly reasonable and legal under international law. They want an immediate end to indefinite detention, torture and poor conditions.…
Click here to read this entire article.
Pax Christi USA has signed onto the U.S. Faith Leaders letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry supporting the Colombia peace process, promoted by the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia Committee. The letter begins:
As leaders of religious communities and faith-based organizations, we are grateful for President Obama’s support of the peace process in Colombia. After fifty years of internal armed conflict that has displaced over five million people and shattered countless lives, we join with our Colombian sisters and brothers during the upcoming 2013 Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia to say, “Now Is the Time for Peace with Justice.”
We know a lasting peace can only be built on the strong foundation of truth, justice, reparations to victims, and reconciliation at every level of Colombian society…
To read the entire letter, click here.