Where then is my hope ? Job 17, 15
The Biblical text is anything but soothing. While it offers that encounter with God the most High which sends forth Abraham, Moses, the prophets and the people of believers, it leaves out nothing of the tragic side of the human condition. Violence and evil can be seen at work as of the very first pages. One does not escape the assaults of the Behemoth and the Leviathan. The Protestant theologian, Dany Nocquet, speaking of evil, makes the following observation : « Evil exists, independently of God….God does not abolish it, but he limits it… God’s engagement in his creation joins Job’s revolt against the injustice of suffering…God’s countenance is not reflected in the traditional wisdom of Job’s friends, but in Job’s own difficult and combative existence…God calls for us to take part in this never-ending struggle. » 
The person who attempts to walk with the Lord has his faith and his hope for guidance, but is always appalled by human distress, by the upright person who is mistreated or the innocent person who is martyred. If Job’s virulent protestation leads eventually to his appeasement : « I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee…» Job 42,5, the cry and the questions of this humiliated but faithful servant still reverberate with us today.
In the Bible, the portrait of the Suffering Servant evoked in chapter 53 of The Book of Isaiah, echos Job’s piercing lamentation and the same kind of distress found in Psalm 22(21), where the first verse is the heart-rending call which the crucified Christ takes up in his turn on Golgotha : « My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? » .
As Christians active in ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), we work tirelessly in our struggle against evil, which is also present in ourselves and in our communities. We protest, question and call on the authorities involved, because human beings, brothers and sisters are suffering, broken and degraded by torturers. They themselves may also cry out sometimes for death to come, cursing the day of their birth, crushed like Job by solitude and despair. On this coming 26th of June 2020, for the fifteenth consecutive year, we are inviting Christians everywhere to join us for a Night Prayer Vigil, holding in prayer torture victims, people sentenced to death and mistreated foreigners.
How we feel for Job, this poor overwhelmed man who uses his final strength to call out his distress! God had accepted Satan’s putting his servant, Job the Righteous, to the test. Annihilated by grief and by physical and moral suffering, Job resists the preaching of his friends who take up the usual theme of this being a payment for sin. Even while shouting his protests to his creator, Job never breaks the thread which attaches him to his God.
The problem of evil continues to question us to this day. With the development of modern means of communication, the painful 20th century exposed to the light of day, often in «real time », its own depravities. After the Shoah, the explosion of the atomic bomb, the horrors of the Gulag, everyone wanted to believe in a better tomorrow : Never again ! was the rallying cry. Some shouted « God is dead! ». Others used God’s name to justify their crimes…
Determined to give peace a chance, women and men of good will drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. This document hoped to give a better future to the inhabitants of the planet, equal in rights and in dignity, and open to brotherhood.
Alas, 71 years later, the state of affairs in our world remains disastrous and worrying. New conflicts irrupt, and the opening up of mass graves has revealed the existence of mass executions, or even genocides. Faced with news of massacres and torture, one can remain speechless, tempted by discouragement.
Christians, supported by our faith in a God of love and mercy, we contemplate the Suffering Servant, the crucified Christ. He gave his life, abandoned himself to the Father and is ever at the side of those who are downtrodden, who are subjected to torments, who are imprisoned in caves or piled into ship holds. He is always at the side of who are starved and humiliated at the hands of people who refuse to see their faces as those of children, of women and of men who have been disfigured, people who would strip them of their very dignity as human beings.
If Christ bears the suffering of human beings, we ourselves are called to compassion, we are invited to suffer along with – as in the first meaning of the word compassion – those whom we are carrying to God in prayer today.
Invincible hope, the road which the Ressurected Christ opens to us on the morning of Easter
While stating his list of grievances toward the creator who is oppressing him, Job slides into an amazing and magnificent confession of faith, which has surged up from within him : in the depths of his misfortune, Job remains a believer, faithful to his God. For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then without my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side. Job 19, 25-27
The idea of seeing God on his side after the destruction of the body, makes one think of the Orthodox fresco depicting the descent into hell with Christ, splendid in light, coming to the side of the living in order to lift them up from their tombs.
At the heart of darkness, it is good to think of the dawn that will come. In the face of suffering, oppression and torture one can find oneself overwhelmed… It is also possible to open up to hope by joining in action and prayer, thus extending a hand to our brothers and sisters in distress. With Christian de Chergé, their Prior, the Tibhirine monks were confronted by blind violence. They chose to stay in an Algeria torn apart by murderous madness. While reflecting with his brothers on their immediate future, Christian composed the prayer : « Lord, disarm me, disarm us and disarm them. » Holding both victims and perpetrators in our prayers this night brings us to the realization that we are all at some level participants in the workings of evil and that we all stand in need of deliverance from it.
« I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee. » Job 42,5
After his confrontation with God, Job backs down : « Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer thee? I lay my hand upon my mouth. » Job 40,4. Faced with Job’s suffering, his three friends stayed silent at first, touched with compassion,
We come this night in support of our brothers and sisters who are suffering,
We live in a world overloaded with commentaries and parasitic noise.
The Book of Job brings us closer to essential matters and makes us mindful of those who suffer.
In the course of the Vigil we may keep some moments of silence to meditate or to contemplate the suffering Christ and the faces of these women and men whom we are holding in prayer.
Christ suffered, died and is risen.
In Christ who has liberated us, suffering is no longer an impasse, it becomes a crossing.
Let us pray then, with confidence and perseverance, for the victims and the perpetrators.
By Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, let us commit them to God, Father of all Mercy.
 Biblical references for the translation into English from the Revised Standard Version, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1953.
 Le Livre de Job. Aux prises avec la justice divine. Dany Nocquet. Éditions Olivétan
 June 26th was declared International Day of Support for Victims of Torture by the U.N. in 1998.
(translated into English by Gretchen Ellis)