Action by Christians Against Torture - an introduction
Action by Christians Against Torture (ACAT) is one of CTE's Bodies in Association. These are organisations which draw Christians of all Churches together around a common cause . Here the ACAT Secretary, Derek Lewis, introduces us to ACAT and its work...
Torture is widespread throughout the world. Very many countries use it — perhaps as many as 150. And there is evidence that it has become even more widespread in modern times. ACAT stands for Action by Christians Against Torture. By 'action' we mean that we inform ourselves from trusted sources about tortured individuals wherever they are in the world, and we do what we can to support them in their ordeal by enabling our members to write to them and to the authorities responsible for their incarceration and ill-treatment. We also pray for them, and we petition our own government where appropriate. Although we are a Christian charity we do not discriminate on religious grounds, supporting individuals of any or no faith. The precise focus of our mandate and the universality of our cause (torture is prohibited in international law and most states that practise torture are unwilling to acknowledge that they do so) enables Christians to unite in a common purpose. We believe, with Oscar Romero, that ‘Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being … abuses God’s image.’
As well as writing to and praying for victims of torture all the year round and sending appeals on their behalf, we mount special campaigns at Christmas and Easter every year. We send cards to named individuals, their families, and local support groups, encouraging them to persevere through dark and difficult times. The messages are religious or non-religious, depending on whether we need to avoid endangering the prisoner by antagonising anti-Christian authorities. In any case we offer the precious consolation that they are not forgotten and that people they don’t even know are on their side and hope they’ll pull through.
Not just ACAT members take part in our campaigns. Appeals cases are widely circulated among churches of different denominations for action, also in schools and non-religious circles. Our supporters know how important receiving such cards can be. Who can forget Terry Waite’s testimony about the postcard he received while a hostage in Beirut? A postcard from a complete stranger, picturing John Bunyan in prison with the message: 'We remember, we shall not forget and we shall continue to pray for you and work for all people who are detained.'
A vital part of our mission is encouraging states that still impose the death penalty to abolish it, and we send urgent appeals for clemency in individual cases. Offers of help with this vital endeavour are always welcome.
Administering all of the above is a tiny committee currently of just six volunteers from three Christian denominations, so we are truly ecumenical. Normally we meet in person every two months, latterly communicating via Zoom, phone and email. To become more effective and extend our research and outreach we need more committee members. If you can help or join us, please let us know. ACAT is also part of an international network of sister ACATs in other countries, working under the umbrella organisation FIACAT. With our international friends we share information, appeal cases, and common projects.
Our newsletter appears four times a year in hard copy and electronic format. Our website gives news, more information about us, and details of our latest campaigns.
If you would like more information about their work please contact ACAT by email.