The following remarks were delivered by the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director, during a vigil on January 11, 2022 calling on the Biden administration to close the Guantanamo Bay Prison.
Did you know, all the people still in prison in Guantanamo Bay are Muslims? And all the people previously imprisoned and tortured there were Muslims. For that matter, all the people tortured by the CIA at Gitmo or anywhere else, were Muslim. As a Christian, I have a problem with that. Never mind, having a problem with it as an American, which is a problem every American should have regardless of faith tradition since we pride ourselves on not having religious scapegoats in the land of the free and the brave.
As a Christian, I have a problem when any group of people are singled out as targets for persecution. Clearly, regarding decisions made about who gets tortured and who goes to prison at this particular facility, we have singled out a particular group. There is plenty of material in the Bible about how to treat people who are different from us, beginning with respect and hospitality.
Hospitality in the biblical sense means I set aside my own plans to welcome the stranger into my presence. I offer shelter, in some cases my own bed; I offer food, in some cases what I had planned to eat myself that day; and I offer protection, in some cases putting myself between the guest and those who would attempt to harm the guest. That’s biblical.
Guantanamo Bay Prison is the antithesis of all these things and the reality that no good or reliable information has come out of the practices enshrined there makes it even more distressing. Put bluntly, my faith tradition says, that’s a sin. When we start talking about sinful behavior, we also have to start talking about the people who are complicit in that behavior. Some of us actively and willingly and some of us passively and ignorantly. But here’s the sad truth about national sins like Guantanamo Bay. Those of us who are part of the nation are part of the sin. Those of us who are part of the nation and say nothing about the sin we see, are a bigger part of the sin.
The public square is not a place where we hear much about sin anymore. We hear about legal matters and political matters. But I’m here today to remind us that while sin means something particular to faith communities, it’s reality is no less present in the public square. If we are looking for an example of what sin looks like on the national level, look no further than Guantanamo Bay Prison. Shut it down. Stop this sinful behavior.