Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Japan and the Philippines - Against the death penalty, for a justice that is respectful of humanity and life

Over the past two weeks two important conferences have been focusing on the Asian cultural debate on the death penalty. They were organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio in the context of the “Cities for Life” campaign. The conferences which took place in Tokyo and Manila during these past days provided an opportunity to discuss, in an elevated and in-depth way, human rights, the value of and respect for life, and the abolition of the death penalty even in the continent in which the majority of states, still today, continue to contemplate it in their laws. 
In Manila, the delegates of a variety of Asian countries - the Philippines, obviously, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia - thirty mayors of cities who have joined “Cities of Life”, and representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, endeavored to build a dialogue platform useful to those countries that have recently abolished the death penalty or are about to embark on a journey to a moratorium on executions. The point is to rediscover, while fully respecting the Asian cultural and religious heritage, those values of humanity and justice that are at the heart of those populations as they are of all populations. 
Similar themes had already been addressed the previous week in Tokyo, in the halls of the Diet, the Japanese parliament. There, representatives of the institutions, activists from the
campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, witnesses to the injustice and arbitrariness of the latter, together with Mario Marazziti, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the Italian parliament and Alberto Quattrucci, of the Community of Sant’Egidio, had emphasized the human and legal magnitude of the challenge represented by abolitionism.
The meeting in Tokyo included a highly emotional moment with the intervention of Iwao Hakamada who spent 46 years on death row as an innocent man: “Ten thousand days without leaving my cell” he stated (you can read about this on www.santegidio.com), “without knowing if, on the other side of the door, there was the attendant bringing me dinner or the firing squad”.
A wind of humanism and life blows therefore in Asia, just while we record the authoritative words of Pope Francis who, at a meeting with members of the International Association for Criminal Law, invited “all Christians and people of good will to fight for the abolition of the death penalty, be it legal or illegal, and in all its forms”. 

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