Sunday, 29 June 2008

Reflections on the Prayer Vigil

I don't usually go into a time of silent waiting with a fixed agenda; that seems to me to run counter to the whole point of the exercise. I mean, I hold people in the light, but apart from that I try to be silent and listen.

So it was with some trepidation that I prepared to fulfil my commitment to the night vigil for UN Torture Victims Day. I was concerned mainly that I might fall back into my old habit of 'shopping list prayer', when I would be so busy asking God for things, and trying to cover every aspect of a situation so that He would know how deeply I'd thought about it, that I would forget to listen for any reply.

I tried very hard to turn off my own thoughts every time they began to intrude. It seemed to work - I got so much insight just from this brief time that I was amazed when I opened my eyes and saw that just my allotted fifteen minutes had passed.

What I learned was this. We all know what torture looks like. We have seen it on TV, read about it in the papers. The victims of torture deserve and demand any and all help we can give. But who are the victims? Not just the person tortured, but their families, their communities, and most definitely the torturers themselves.

Torture is an insidious evil which leaves no one untouched.

When there is domestic violence, there is torture. When there is bullying, there is torture. Like those child victims of abuse who grow up to be abusers, are torturers created by suffering torture themselves?

This is not meant to dilute the awful experiences of those undergoing what we all think of as torture. But I believe deeply that we often do not realise how close those victims can be to us. Not all torture victims are in faraway countries in medieval dungeons. Sometimes they can be just next door.

I know now that I have to keep remembering that within humanity, within each one of us, is the capacity for great cruelty and harm. It's so common to hear an anecdote finished with a laughing, 'Ooh, I could have killed him', or 'I could have strangled her'.Why do we say these things so lightly?

I feel that I have been led another step closer to God. The more time I spend with Him, the easier it becomes to get closer to Him and to live out His teachings, and the less I want to do the things that keep me away from Him. So, in addition to all the other things I have embraced and found strength in, I have to add the awareness of casual violence, not only around me but within me. And I thought I was a good pacifist already...


kevin roberts said...

Hello Heather--

How any culture can justify torture is a mystery to me. Hemingway wrote of Cuban revolutionaries robbing Miami banks for funds, justifying themselves by chanting, "After the revolution, these methods will no longer be necessary. . . " Of course, after any event the methods that promoted it continue to be used, because they have been shown to be effective.

In the same vein, we use torture routinely, justifying it by asserting that the freedoms it supposedly protects justify abridging those same freedoms in order to keep them from being abridged.

The logic is so wrong-headed I can't figure out how it could be believed. But it is.

Heather said...

Hi, Kevin - thanks for the comment. Yep, circular logic is a bizarre thing!

This is why I feel it's so important for those of us who are able to use our voices, to speak up for those who are being prevented from speaking...