Go in this thy might (strength) – Judges 6,14
 Translator’s note: Except when otherwise stated, the quotations from the First Testament in this translation are taken from the King James Version of the Bible. This is because of its poetic quality and because it is a version that has been in use in many parts of the world over a long period of time. I have added the word « strength » in parenthesis as a more modern word for « might » and because it is closer to the French version of the Bible used in this text.
And the LORD looked upon him (Gideon), and said, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” And he said unto him, “Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the LORD said unto him, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.” Judges 6:14-16
Torture is one of the worst manifestations of evil. Whatever spiritual choices she or he has made, the person who has entered the struggle against the practice of torture feels themself at times to be in a situation of weakness. But something, a kind of inner strength pushes them to persevere. What is this weakness? What is this strength?
ACAT, an experience of fragility
Human rights activists, ACAT members or staff, we sometimes feel quite weak and fragile before this monster we are trying to slay. Belonging to an organisation which accompanies us helps to attenuate this feeling of helplessness; nonetheless the feeling or the fear of our own weakness remains strong enough for us to have to make an effort in order not to be discouraged. From whence, do this feeling and this doubt come, what are their causes? Surely from the great discrepancy we feel between who we are and the task to be performed: who are we, after all, to call upon the heads of State, war lords, judges and those in charge of public order reminding them that torture is an absolute prohibition, that they must free its victims and render them justice? It is like Moses asking God: «Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?» (Exodus 3:11).
There is also the fear of not being a great enough number, too isolated or in too small a minority before powerful political forces: we are filled with good will but where is our powerful backing? It is Gideon to whom God has given the task of saving Israel which has fallen into the hands of the Midianites, asking: «Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.» (Judges 6:15). There is also what one could call the Danaïdes complex: the observation that positive results are usually tenuous and that one must constantly be prepared to return to the fray without giving in to discouragement.
These weaknesses, these fragilities in no way extinguish the feeling of the strength or power that pushes us to persevere. This is the same power God speaks of when he tells Gideon (Judges 6:14,16) to “go in this thy might” (or in “this strength that you have”). And God adds: “Yes, it is I who am sending you. I shall be with you.”
The strength which is in us
This strength is there, within each of us, at least potentially. It unfolds in our faith in God’s Word (“Yes, it is I who am sending you. I shall be with you”) and in hope (for Gideon as for Moses, it is the salvation of Israel; for Christians, the second coming of Christ). It is kept alive in prayer. Look at Jesus! He never ever undertook anything without praying to his Father sometimes throughout the entire night (Luke 6, 12; Mark 6, 47; Matthiew 26, 36-44; John 17, 1-26). He listens for the Father within the unity of the Holy Spirit. In John 5, 19, he says he does nothing of his own accord but acts in perfect unity with the Father. And further on: “I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5, 30). And what he does leads him not to worldly glory, to power, to riches, but to the offering of his life in an unfair trial, to torture and to being put to death, a series of events that has the appearance of lamentable failure. A failure that, in the eyes of many, is not erased by the announcement of the Resurrection.
And now, before going to join his Father, he asks us to carry on where he left off and to act in unity with him in the Holy Spirit: “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them: Receive ye the Holy Spirit”. (John 20, 21-22)
The Holy Spirit gives us strength and courage. Speaking about the Holy Spirit, the Rouah ha-godesh which is referred to in the second verse of Genesis, Elisabeth Smadja, a Hasidic Jew who converted to Catholicism wrote these rather moving words: “We find it next in the period of the Judges, the Prophets and the Kings. It comes up and seizes men by surprise “from behind”, pulling them from a life “without the spirit” to make them enter into the intimacy of the Living God. This is not given to everyone; it is a privilege that the rest of the people will never have. It is while writing these words that I have come to realize that finally the most extraordinary news of Christianity is that the Holy Spirit has been given to any and every one. By baptism each person receives the Holy Spirit. We are not nearly aware enough of this strength, this fire which has been given us and which we let lie dormant deep within us. I had then thought that in order to awaken this Spirit in me I had to pray so that I would become sensitive to its presence putting my breath within its breath. When God created Adam, the first man, he blew onto his face «nichmat Haim» (the breath of life) and the man became a living creature. Our natural life is given us, but we are called to more, to a supernatural life, to give birth in the Holy Spirit to the Son (child) of God we bear within us.
A strength innate to every woman and every man
The manifestation of strength, of courage, of fire visibly bestowed by the Holy Spirit can be observed in women and men of all spiritual horizons who revolt against injustice, against attacks on human dignity (sometimes calling themselves anti-Christians, according to the context in which they find themselves). Speaking of them, how can one not evoke the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, 6.10: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled…”; «Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven!»? In his translation of the Bible, Chouraqui does not use the term “Blessed” but “On the move”, because he explains in a footnote the Hebrew word «ashréi» « evokes the rectitude of man marching along a route leading directly to YHWH». And in 1 R 10 8, he notes: «ashréi» Rise, march forth! The expression reflects the joy that will be born once the goal is reached. » Women and men on the move, on the good path, on a mission! In motion with the Holy Spirit? At times in the most dramatic circumstances! How could one not mention the superhuman courage of opponents of the living hells created by regimes of all ilks that have marked recent history, just keeping to that which is immediately accessible to our fragile or eclipsed memories: colonialism, nazism, fascism, communism, apartheid regimes, Greek, Turkish, South American dictatorships, different types of repression and genocide. Everywhere women and men have resisted, held on, detached enough from themselves that no one could doubt but what they be in motion with the Holy Spirit. This kind of women and men has existed in every epoch. Sometimes they have walked in the footsteps of Jesus without being aware of it, solidly anchored in the triumph of life (“I am the way, the truth and the life” – John 14, 6) and not in a work of death like torturers or even terrorists assassinating in the name of their god (the ultimate blasphemy!).
Christians are all called to fight against evil and thus against torture
Mistreatment and torture are particularly calculated to break the inner strength of the victims. But this act actually dehumanizes both the victim and the torturer. Many victims are defenders of Human Rights, and others are citizens guilty of various offenses or wrongly accused. The Night Prayer Vigil is a moment when we remember that as Christians, we are all called to intervene with the authorities for the liberation of these victims and to seek for them, from the Father, the reinforcement, the support, and the help of the Holy Spirit to obtain their deliverance and the justice which is owed to them. And to stand firm in this commitment, to face our weakness, the weakness of the disciples at Gethsemane: « Lord we are like the disciples, asleep in the garden at Gethsemane. We are so weak. So unreliable. So little present in our prayers. Unable, no doubt, to alleviate this feeling of the solitude of the supplicant whose back is now crushed under the wood of the cross. Nonetheless, we humbly set out at your side.
 Elisabeth Smadja. Béni soit celui qui vient au nom du Seigneur (Du judaïsme hassidique au catholicisme. Histoire d’une rencontre). F.-X. de Guibert, 2007, pp.119-120. Translator: This book does not seem to have been translated into English. If it were its title would read “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord (from Hasidic Judaism to Catholicism)”.
 Translation into Roman characters of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (yodh, he, waw, he), the name of God, which it is forbidden to pronounce and which is translated in Christian versions of the Bible by “The Lord”.
 Marc Zarrouati. “La Croix : chemin de libération (Un chemin de croix à Saint-Sernin)”, Artège, 2010, p.7. Translator: This booklet does not seem to exist in English. It’s title might read “The Cross: a Road to Liberation (a Stations of the Cross at the Saint-Sernin Basilica in Toulouse)”. Marc Zarrouati was President of ACAT-France from 2005 to 2008.