United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey Black signed his name to a letter to the White House, joining others in calling on President Barack Obama to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and end a dark chapter in the inhumane treatment of prisoners.
"As people of faith, we are called to treat each other as human beings, and by delaying the closure of this detention center, humanity must bear the stain of the torture that took place there," Black said. "And because of our faith, we believe in justice. Justice cannot exist when a government detains prisoners indefinitely without a trial."
On Friday, May 10, C-Span televised a briefing by the Constitution Project, which advocates closing the facility. The discussion centered around efforts to close the facility, or to transfer or charge the detainees. Among some of the people to speak in favor of some sort of action during the briefing were a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, and former officials from the Department of Defense and the Department of State.
Black is one of 38 religious leaders to sign the letter, which reads, "As people of faith, we oppose torture and indefinite detention without trial because they are contrary to the inherent dignity of the human person. As the nation’s most visible and painful symbol of torture and indefinite detention, Guantanamo Bay is a constant reminder of a deep moral wound that will heal only when it is permanently closed."
Eleven years after the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center first opened in Cuba, there are 166 prisoners being held there, with 86 of those men ready for release or a transfer to another prison. Currently, about 100 men imprisoned at Guantanamo — nicknamed "Gitmo" in military circles — are in the middle of a hunger strike because they feel helpless about their situation.
Obama and his opponent in the 2008 Presidential Election, Sen. John McCain, called for the closure of the prison, and as recently as April 30, the president restated his belief during a news conference that the prison needs to be closed indefinitely.
The letter to Obama was organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. The group is also asking congregations to take action the weekend of May 17, which would be the 100th day of the hunger strike.
The NRCAT hopes pastors and religious leaders will mention Guantanamo in the worships service, or organize activities, such as fasts and prayer vigils. The group has prepared a Guantanamo Fact Sheet, Sermon Talking Points and a Bulletin Insert with an Interfaith Prayer. NRCAT is also asking people who think the detention center should be closed to sign the religious leaders’ letter.