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25 June 2014

Prayer vigil for torture victims

Prayer vigil for torture victims

A day of prayer will take place on 26 June for people who are victims of torture and persecution. Action by Christians Against Torture UK (ACAT UK) is inviting all to join with Christians around the world as they remember victims in prayer.

The vigil is timed to coincide with the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Captives are held in various countries around the world such as China, Benin, Colombia, Japan, Iran, Russia, Israel, Mexico and Sudan. They are tortured because of their political or religious convictions, their support of human rights or fight against racism and injustice.

Behnam Irani, for example, was a pastor in the Iranian town of Karaj for ten years. Since 31 May 2011, however, he has been held in a prison in Ghezal Hesar, one of the most punitive prisons in Iran, because he preached and held religious services with Muslims present.

During his first month of detention he was kept in solitary confinement. He was deprived of sleep and then transferred into a collective cell where he was badly treated by co-prisoners and guards. He is now in bad health and in need of an operation but so far the prison has refused to let him receive suitable medical care.

Mother-of-two Alexandra Jimenez Parra is being held in a Colombian prison for her political activism. During the years of her imprisonment she has been subjected to physical abuse and isolation. In April 2008 there was an incident in which she was badly physically abused, handcuffed and placed in a rat-infested refuse room.

She has tried several times to take her own life. At the end of 2013, she was finally transferred to another prison where the situation improved somewhat. She has not seen her daughters for three years.

These cases resonate with the recent high-profile Summit to End Sexual Violence, co-chaired by actress Angelina Jolie and foreign secretary William Hague, and the case of Meriam Ibrahim, imprisoned on death row in Sudan for alleged apostasy and adultery. Both stories received substantial media coverage. The summit was the largest gathering ever on the subject and, due to unprecedented international pressure, a court ordered the release of Meriam Ibrahim - though the case at present is not resolved.

ACAT UK's aim is to work towards the abolition of all such abuse and torture worldwide, seeking to raise awareness among Christians of their obligation to campaign for abolition. Similar work is carried out by Alliance members Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide who campaign against the persecution of Christians around the globe and, through advocacy, campaign for religious freedom and human rights.

Torture is totally banned in international law under all circumstances, including war, civil war, internal conflict and terrorist attack. There is no opt-out but some people still think that torture can be used in special circumstances.

Take part in the prayer vigil service and download resources and information about some prisoners.