The following remarks were delivered by Executive Director Jennifer Copeland at the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture’s press conference on Thursday, September 27. The press conference marked the full release of the Commission’s report detailing North Carolina’s involvement in the CIA’s post 9/11 rendition and torture program. You can read the report by clicking here.
Here’s what happened on Day 6.
God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. … Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; … So God created humankind in [God’s] image, in the image of God [God] created them; male and female [God] created them. [And] God blessed them…
God blessed them. All of them. All of them created in the image of God. Not just the white ones, the American ones, the ones with money or might, the ones with power and prestige. All of them. All of us. We are created in the image of God and blessed by God. All of us. Every single human being on the face of the earth bears the face of God.
When those of us who look like God harm others of us who look like God, we are called to confess these wrongs. In our confession, we offer repentance and seek forgiveness. Sometimes, we are able to move as far as restoration, working to restore the relationships broken by our harmful behavior.
It sounds so easy:
- Admit we are wrong
- Say we are sorry
- Ask how we can repair the damage
It sounds so easy, but it is one of the most courageous things we will ever do. Most of us don’t get past the first step—admit we are wrong.
No one wants to be wrong, much less a country trying to live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. But there’s not much liberty in the belly of a plane bound for a place you’ve never heard of. There’s not much justice in being snatched off the street and kept in chains for years without a trial. Our country has done that to those who look like God. To say so, is to say our country was wrong. To know our country was wrong and say nothing is to be part of what’s wrong.
If those of us gathered here are willing to say that much, then we can begin the process of saying we are sorry for what we have done and we want to repair the damage. Those of us gathered here are the starting place and today is the launch of a larger process of helping our elected leaders, the perpetrators of this sin-filled behavior, admit our country was wrong.
We’ve gathered here today to tell the truth about North Carolina’s role in the torture programs allowed by our government. We’ve come here to admit that when our government behaves this way, we the people are complicit.
The truth we must name is hard to hear. Torture has happened. Torture contradicts liberty and justice for all. Torture disrespects the God in whose image people are created.
Today, we will tell the truth. We were wrong. We are sorry. We want to repair the relationship. We want our elected officials to join us in this truth-telling. Gov. Cooper, Attorney General Stein, Senator Burr, will you say: “We were wrong, too”?
For those interested in helping our state move in the direction of truth-telling we are offering an interfaith prayer vigil at the Johnston County Court in Smithfield this afternoon at 4:30 pm. You can find additional details about the event by clicking here.