CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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In support of anti-death penalty bid

HONG KONG (UCAN): Italian-born Father Franco Mella of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, and along with other advocates attempted to lodge a petition at the Consulate-General of Japan and the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong seeking the abolition of the death penalty with representatives of the governments of both Japan and China.
Personnel at both locations refused to accept the petition from the petitioners who were singing and shouting slogans, on October 10, the World Day against the Death Penalty.
The group expressed dissatisfaction with the officials being unwilling to pass on the petition to their respective governments.
Japan is one of the only developed countries in the world that has maintained the death penalty.
In July, 13 people who had been found guilty of involvement in acts of terrorism by the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, including a 1995 sarin poison gas attack on Tokyo’s subway, were executed.
Some prisoners were notified only immediately before their execution took place and even the families of the condemned were not advised in advance.
China in 2017 was the nation that carried out the largest number of executions in the world, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.
Hong Kong has had an Abolish the Death Penalty Group for 20 years.
Father Mella, who is a member, said some crimes resulting in executions worldwide could not be considered heinous.
He said the death penalty was cruel and did not effectively prevent crimes from happening.
“The national crime rates of countries that abolished the death penalty have not seen rapid growth,” he said.
The Italian priest noted that several Southeast Asian countries are considering its abolition.
He said that in some cases, capital punishment had been used to further political and other vested interests.
At the age of 70, Father Mella does not expect to see the death penalty abolished globally in his lifetime, but added that he would still continue to campaign against it.
Several years ago, he and others lobbied Malaysia to remove capital punishment from its statute books and the goal is coming to fruition this year, as the county’s government announced that it would be tabling a bill to abolish the death penalty. The Malaysian Cabinet announced it had agreed to abolish executions and that more than 1,200 death sentences would be suspended.
Jackie Hung Ling-yu, project officer of the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Diocese, welcomed the Malaysian decision, but noted that many other Asian governments still had not scrapped executions noting that in some countries, local law enforcement officers carried out extra-judicial killings, citing the Philippines where thousands of people have been killed in a so-called war-on-drugs.
“Christianity respects the life and dignity of each individual,” Hung said.
Life is given by God and no one should have the power to deprive others of it, including governments and law enforcement agencies, she added.

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