Today, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty marks the fourth annual day of action against the death penalty. With the theme that the death penalty is a failure of justice, the group is focusing on child offenders, discrimination against foreign nationals, unfair trials, mental illness, and innocence.
Two-thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty through law or practice. Mine, it need hardly be said, is not one of them. In fact, the United States is a rather egregious offender in all five categories highlighted this year. According to Amnesty International, 94% of the documented executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Nigeria -and that's company you really want to be in when it comes to human rights protection.
So, what can we do?
One might watch the movie The Exonerated. One might even arrange for it to be shown somewhere, such as in parishes or classrooms. There could be an interfaith discussion/panel on the death penalty. A person could make a donation to Sr. Helen Prejean's work or to the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty. You could start the discernment process towards deciding how you would want your loved ones to respond should you become a victim of murder. There's an interesting example here: Buddhist Peace Fellowship Prison Project. (.pdf)
The death penalty is not justice. It's the tool we use when we feel -possibly even justifiably- that everything else has failed. So, among other tragedies, it's a failure of imagination and intellect. We can do better.