‘Expeditiously’ close Guantanamo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society is among 38 interfaith organizations that sent a letter to President Obama and members of Congress urging them to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. The letter describes the desperate situation at Guantanamo and calls on the president and Congress to expeditiously move to close the prison there.

Guantanamo Bay is a place where our government tortured prisoners.

The faith groups letter was coordinated by the National Religious Campaign to End Torture (NRCAT).

“Guantanamo Bay is a place where our government tortured prisoners, and it continues to be a place where many are detained indefinitely without trial,” the faith groups emphasize in their letter. “We believe that our government has a moral obligation to close the prison at Guantanamo. We hope that you share this belief and that you will act expeditiously to close Guantanamo.”

During an April 30 press conference, President Obama reiterated his belief that the United States needs to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The president said, “The notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no man’s land in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al-Qaida core, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks, when we’ve transferred detention authority in Afghanistan — the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried — that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.”

The Rev. Richard Killmer, NRCAT executive director, responded to the president’s statement on Guantanamo, saying, “We appreciate the president reiterating his commitment to closing Guantanamo. We hope that he and his administration will back that commitment with action by certifying or waiving certification for the transfer of cleared detainees.”

Killmer added that he also hopes President Obama will lift the blanket ban on transfers to Yemen and assign an individual within his administration the responsibility of ensuring that Guantanamo is closed.

“The existence of Guantanamo creates a moral crisis for this country,” Killmer declared. “The president needs to back his strong words with action by moving to close this tragic symbol of torture and detention without trial.”

Editor's note: The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a membership organization committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since its formation in January 2006, more than 320 religious organizations, including the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society, have joined NRCAT, including representatives from the Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline Protestant, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Buddhist, and Sikh communities. Members include national denominations and faith groups, regional organizations and local congregations.

June is Torture Awareness Month. NRCAT has prepared a toolkit, available on its website, to help congregations with observances.

To read the letter to President Obama, go to Close Guantanamo Detention Center.

Letter to the Editor