Reflections on the death penalty

Reflections on the death penalty

Anne Lastman

I don't usually get involved in other "death issues" than abortion, because there is enough written about them and I would prefer to concentrate on abortion death and its pain, and sexual abuse and its wounds and pain.

But the recent events in our part of the world, that is, the execution of two Australians (Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran) in Indonesia, and an accusation that I am one eyed and "don't care about other life matters"  has moved me so much that I have been forced to speak.

First of all I have to say that I am rabidly pro-life and that means all life.  I cannot defend the life of a tiny dot sized infant and then agree that the death penalty is OK.  That surely is hypocrisy.

I simply try and stay out of other issues including euthanasia because I know that there are others dealing with these and doing it well.

But in the instance of this latest attack on life, that is the shooting of those two young men in Indonesia, I need to say something.

I wept for them, their families and friends.  I had many difficulties because of all which had gone on.

These executions (together with six others at the same time) were carried out on the two Australian men 10 years after their crime and whilst court processes still appear to have been in progress.

The executions were carried out on two men who had very obviously undergone total rehabilitation during their stay in prison (one became a pastor of religion and the other a distinguished artist).

During the ten years in prison, much work had been done to assist them and to bring about a change in them and indeed we saw the end result of all the work and grace which helped to change the young men from drug couriers to reformed young men who went to their deaths different than the young men who had been arrested ten years earlier.  They went to their deaths praying and singing and showing that it is possible to change for those who wish to.

What a fantastic model this might have been.  What fantastic example Indonesia might have been for the rest of the world showing that drug rehabilitation, using their model is possible, as shown within their own system.

Instead what was shown was a President who had made up his mind and nothing was to change it.  A President without mercy. Pity his own people.

What we saw is that rehabilitation is not the end desire of Indonesian law but legalised murder. How much like abortion, legalised murder.  Abortion too is in most countries legalised murder under the title of "right" The death penalty is legalised murder under the title of "law."

What great lunacy  we are seeing when the death penalty is used to stop drug trafficking when clearly it has done nothing of the sort.

The drug trade flourishes in all nations and death penalty seems to change nothing. The death penalty has not acted as a deterrent because those involved are already trapped in some hell or another.

What a better way it would have been if the model used to rehabilitate the two young men could have been replicated in order to stem the drug  scourge: to change addicts into honourable young people.

What I found so disturbing in the whole sorry saga was the lack of respect and mercy shown by the President of Indonesia.  What I found strange is the fact that he was unable to acknowledge the rehabilitation of these two men which occurred during their stay in his prison system, and which was used to help other prisoners.

What I found amazing was the fact that this president could not join with other international personages to find a way to stop all drug trafficking. He chose the quick and easy way.

What happened in his prison system could have been used as a model to help others. What occurred could have been replicated in other places where drug couriers are drawn to this deadly trade.

I was reminded of the agreement last year between Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest, the mining entrepreneur from Australia, together with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby, and  Ahmad el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, Cairo.

They joined forces to launch a global campaign to eradicate slavery and human trafficking. That is the way to work collaboratively, a willingness by good people to work together for the common good.

It needs willingness and a united front from all interested to destroy the drug trade, just as it needs a united effort to destroy the demon called abortion and human trafficking. These are demons which are destroying our society.  It doesn't need shooting or injecting or dismembering. These do not fix the problems.

Sadly President Widodo of Indonesia chose such an easy way for him ... death by shooting.  His kind of solution. Not by drugs but by shooting. Not much different the outcome, still death.

Like abortion, death is still death of the child whether by chemical means or dismemberment or potassium injection ... it's still death. Legal death like the death penalty. Slavery is still slavery.

It has been argued with me that the child in the womb is innocent and doesn't deserve to die ... agreed.  But drug couriers are drug couriers who in most cases are also addicts and therefore "deserve" all manner of suffering imposed on them.

Let us remember the words of the late Pope St John Paul II: "Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity and God makes Himself its guarantor. As St Ambrose teaches, 'God, who preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide" (Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life 9)

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, recently spoke some beautiful words on this topic. "When the death penalty is applied persons are killed not for present aggressions, but for harm caused in the past. Moreover, it is applied to persons whose capacity to harm is not present but has already been neutralised and who find themselves deprived of their freedom."  (Zenit News, 22 March 2015).

These words of Pope Francis speak directly to those two Australian citizens who were executed recently and to all the other prisoners who have been, are, or may be so treated in the future.

Apart from Indonesia, there are many other countries which still apply the death penalty.

The tragedy is that in the 21st century we have not found a way which is humane to deal with those who have failed, even when they have been rehabilitated.

It hasn't stopped what it was meant to stop and dehumanises and cheapens life further.

It's no wonder that we have such disrespect for life at all levels when laws decree that life can be disposed because its cheap and we can't find other ways to resolve social problems.

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