Friday, June 27, 2008

Healing Victims of Torture

Yesterday was the United Nations Day for Victims of Torture, one single day to help build awareness of the extreme cruelty some individuals have endured and the resources they need to re-build their lives. With all the coverage in recent years of the U.S. government's treatment of detainees and prisoners and Supreme Court rulings about the rights of those held, you might think we don't need any more awareness. But from my time working on refugee and immigrant issues I know that torture is a persistent fact of life in many societies even outside of wartime. Victims are often civilians like church woman Diana Ortiz or unknown women and men who have been brutalized to intimidate them and break down civil struggle for justice.

Here in the United States we have institutions dedicated to naming and healing these unspeakable acts, such as the Marjorie Kovler Center in Chicago or the Center for Victims of Torture based in Minneapolis. In addition to providing counseling and support services to the individuals and families whose lives have been nearly destroyed, CVT and others have joined together to advocate for banning torture. These campaigns need supporters, of course, so check out their sites. In your local communities there may be refugee resettlement agencies looking for volunteers to provide direct services, if you are inclined to that type of action. Confronting and ending torture can happen outside the headlines, through people like you, just as the acts themselves may be hidden from view.

Thanks for considering this uncomfortable subject, which might seem removed from considerations of Fair Trade but certainly not from justice. And to tie it all together: speaking of CVT in Minneapolis, the 1/2 marathon I spoke of last week was a big success. My time in MN was filled with not only running, but also enjoying tasty Fair Trade Peace Coffee at local establishments such as Moose and Sadie's (their granola is incredible even if you haven't just run 13.1 miles!) and the Birchwood Cafe. At the Birchwood you'll be treated to locally and sustainably grown meals in the middle of a tree-lined neighborhood that attracts many cyclists as customers. My friend Kathy and I left with not only full bellies but also some cool sports socks!

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