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Use of torture a concern, United Methodist women say

 


Use of torture a concern, United Methodist women say

April 12, 2005         

By Linda Bloom*

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)—United Methodist Women and other church officials are being called to action regarding the use of torture in war and terrorism-related situations.

Concerned about recent allegations of torture in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, directors of the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, voted to ask their membership to study, reflect and act on the issue. The division is the administrative arm of United Methodist Women.

During their April 8-11 spring meeting, the directors also called upon the denomination—through its agencies and Council of Bishops—“to reflect on this grave concern and move towards a prophetic stance against the use of torture.” Division directors agreed to consider writing a resolution on torture for the 2008 General Conference, the church’s top legislative body.

The United Methodist Social Principles state that “mistreatment or torture of persons by governments for any purpose violates Christian teaching and must be condemned and/or opposed by Christians and churches wherever and whenever it occurs.”

Directors also supported the efforts of the National Council of Churches in its call for full human rights for prisoners being held by the United States in Guantanamo Bay.

Work to implement three resolutions adopted by the 2004 General Conference—on “Teen Sexual Identity and Suicide Risk,” “In Defense of International Law and Cooperation: Cornerstone of Multilateralism” and “Compensation for Comfort Women”—was approved by directors.

Kyung Za Yim, president of the Women’s Division, recounted her own experience of meeting former “comfort women” in Korea in 1991. These women were among more than 200,000 forced by the Japanese to serve as sexual slaves for the military during World War II.

Yim joined the women as they staged a weekly demonstration in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, seeking an official apology from the Japanese government. “There were many lawsuits against the Japanese government, but nothing has been resolved,” she added.

She encouraged the directors to circulate petitions urging the United Nations to pressure the Japanese government to make a written public apology to all “comfort women” and offer some sort of compensation.

Yim was reminded recently of the global nature of the Women’s Division’s work when she served on a Board of Global Ministries delegation to tsunami-stricken Indonesia in January.

On her trip home, she visited with Methodist women in Singapore and Korea. “I was deeply moved by the outpouring of love and concern these Asian sisters had for the Women’s Division,” she told the directors. “More than a hundred years ago, many of these Asian countries did little for the education of women. Through the mission efforts of our predecessor organizations, seeds were planted for the betterment of girls and women in many places around the world.”

Such work is still necessary today, according to Yim. “I have witnessed in Indonesia that when sisters and brothers around the world put efforts together, we can do anything we want done,” she noted. “Even the economists say that there are solutions to the global crises of hunger, poverty and illness. We, as members of United Methodist Women, have an incredible history and legacy of addressing these global issues by empowering women and children through education and training.”

In other business, directors learned the division has put constraints on its budget. Treasurer Connie Takamine reported that total operating revenue for 2004 was $30.6 million, but expenditures were $35.26 million, which included retirement benefits for 350 retired missionaries and deaconesses.

“We are now operating on spending limits for non-fixed items in order to rebuild reserves,” she said, “and the future income outlook is a continued challenge.”

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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