Sri Lankan Christians Opposing Reintroduction of Death Penalty

Looking for Alternative Ways to Deal With Rising Crime Rate

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, APRIL 13, 2003 (ZENIT.orgFides).- Catholics and Protestants in Sri Lanka are opposing a plan to reinstate the death penalty in the face of a rising crime rate.

In Sri Lanka, the last person to be executed by the state was hanged in 1976. Since then, capital punishment has been commuted to life imprisonment, but not abolished. Parliament is poised to take up debate on the issue.

In a recent statement, Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo, president of the bishops’ conference, expressed firm opposition to the death penalty.

«No country can claim a perfect system that totally excludes the killing of innocents in the name of justice,» he said.

While acknowledging the problem of rising crime, the archbishop insisted that capital punishment is not the right solution.

«Crime has to be countered as a social malaise needing not just punitive measures that embitter offenders and debase their sense of self-worth, but corrective action to renew ruptured relations with society and restore human dignity,» he stressed.

Early this month Catholic bishops met with Anglican bishops and other religious leaders of the National Christian Council. The groups agreed on the need to firmly oppose the death penalty, stating that there are other ways to tackle rising crime, and that better enforcement of the law is necessary.

According to UCA News, the religious leaders agreed that Christian communities in this island nation of 19.5 million should propose corrective measures that reintegrate offenders into society and a system of social justice that helps to reduce crime.

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