Guantanamo Prayers: America goes inside the prison

Last week, I had an opportunity to walk the deserted grounds of Camp X-Ray. In the iconic photo of the first prisoners arriving there in 2002, prisoners knelt in rows, shackled, wearing orange scrubs. After a full tour,  I asked my military escort if I could take a moment to gather my thoughts. Moments later I went to my knees, positioned my hands behind my back and began to pray.

 - by Luke Hansen sj, of America

Camp X-Ray is no longer used by the United States to hold prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but it cannot be torn down. It is preserved as a site for gathering evidence. Gnarly, overgrown Bermuda grass covers the pathways, green vines crawl up a maze of chain-linked fencing and barbed wire, and banana rats encamp in the rafters of abandoned human cages, which once held about 300 prisoners.

During my visit, my first thoughts were with the 779 men imprisoned at Guantánamo over the last 11 years. I imagined the confusion and fear of the first prisoners in Camp X-Ray, those subjected to torture in CIA interrogations and those who continue to be indefinitely detained, left wondering whether they will ever unite with family.

But then, unexpectedly, I began thinking of many others associated with the daily operation of the prison camps. During my week reporting for America, I had the opportunity to listen to the personal experience of several men and women who work in the prison camps.

Kneeling in the Bermuda grass, I began praying for them: the military policemen who guard the camps, medical staff who care for the physical and mental health needs of the prisoners, cooks who take great pride in preparing quality meals for the prisoners, a librarian who organizes 20,000 available titles to choose from, and chaplains who provide compassionate pastoral care for soldiers separated from family and friends.

Their work undoubtedly engenders sympathy from Americans, yet in some ways the challenges they face are less chronicled than many other stories coming out of Guantánamo.

FULL STORY Guantanamo prayers (America)

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