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Religious Ethics After Abu Ghraib

From State of Formation

Last December, I had the opportunity to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia. The Parliament seeks to promote harmony, reconciliation, and understanding in the world through both intra-religious and interreligious dialogue. In short, it sustains a collective hope that religion will truly be a purveyor of peace and not a conduit for violence and fundamental extremism in its various forms. Yet hope, at times, seems lost in the fog of recent wars, namely the “war on terrorism” that was unabashedlylikened to a “crusade” by former President George Bush on the South Lawn of the White House in 2001.

Having been raised in a religious military family, I’m naturally drawn to academic discussions about violence, militarization, and religious ethics. So I attended a Parliament session entitled “Religion and the Future of Torture” facilitated by George Hunsinger, professor at Princeton and founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). During the allotted two hours, Hunsinger shared sobering facts about the United States’ government’s complicity in torture during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He especially highlighted the revisions the US Army Field Manual for Interrogations in 2006 as a response to political discourse about the definition of torture after the Abu Ghraib scandal. In case you’re wondering, one positive revision in the field manual was the named prohibition of waterboarding as an interrogation technique. However, several concerns remain, such as the addition of Appendix “M” and the semantic separation of the term “torture” from what constitutes “cruel, unusual, and inhuman treatment.”  Another concern is that even though sensory deprivation is banned, it is also cleverly redefined as deprivation of all the senses simultaneously, which still leaves room for interrogators to obstruct one or two of a detainee’s senses at a time.

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Religion, Violence and the Future of Torture

Dr. George Hunsinger, a Presbyterian minister and Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, discusses the nature of violence and it’s “refuge in falsehood” in the context of torture.  Hunsinger is the founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, an interreligious organization opposing torture in the United States.

This presentation from the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions is presented in its entirety by SlowTV.