Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: justice
Monday, 26 July 2010 22:41

Leading the long road to abolition (TAEDP)

Lin Hsinyi is the Executive Director of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP). In a gradual reaction to the cases of Zhou Xun-shan, Lu Cheng and Xu Zi-chiang, TEADP was established in 2003, and has been working towards abolition ever since, as well as helping appeal death row cases and offering support to relatives of those who have received a death sentence or who have already been executed. They are currently the most active group in Taiwan regarding the cessation of the death penalty and are also members of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) and the Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)

As a recognisable outspoken critic of the death penalty, Hsinyi often receives personal threats on her life and body, a product of the prevailing atmosphere of hate. This atmosphere of hate is something she feels is an obstacle to objective debate on the subject. Hsinyi also feels that the resumption of executions after a four year moratorium in May was a huge setback, yet, she believes progressive steps are still being made. Here she talks about why she does not favour the death penalty as a form of punishment, the obstacles to abolishing the death penalty and what can be done in the future.

Or for readers in Mainland China, watch it here

For more information on the TAEDP, watch their own introductory video, or see the English section of their website.

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 17:21

“Where sin abounded, Grace abounded all the more”

Growing up in a South Suburb of Chicago in the late 1980s, I first learned about the death penalty when the American serial killer, Ted Bundy, was put to death by the electric chair. Despite being young, his name and his awful crimes were something that I have always remembered.

Hours before his execution, a Christian Evangelist named Dr. James Dobson spoke with Bundy in a taped interview. Since the content was adult and dealt a lot with Bundy’s addiction to pornography, I never heard or saw anything from this interview, I just knew that a very sick and bad person was no longer around.

From this, my very impressionable mind was made up and I do believe my opinion on the death penalty was established. Since Dr. Dobson was a Christian and was not, from my memory, speaking out against Bundy’s execution, I took the event to mean that those who truly commit heinous crimes have to be put to death to ensure the safety of others. My young mind could wrap itself around the notion of eradicating evil, in the name of death. And it did so for the next twenty years.

It seemed logical that you end the life of one who showed no respect for others and who graphically and brutally could take the lives of innocent, young and defenseless people. It made sense to use death – in certain cases – to amend for death.

I felt this way until only this year.

When you think about it, the public rarely hears about criminals who are executed – unless terrible stories accompany their killing spree. Since the start of 2010, fifteen men and women have been put to death across the United States, mostly through lethal injection. These criminals face their due while the rest of the country is none the wiser let alone made to feel safer, except for - maybe - the victim’s family.

In March, one news headline caused me to take notice when I learned that a man in Virginia was executed by the electric chair. I had no idea the electric chair was still an option. The man had brutally killed two women, and I felt a sense of relief and safety knowing he was no longer a threat. His crimes made me sick to my stomach.

I shared this bit of news with a friend, not realizing he took an entirely different stance when it came to the death penalty. He explained how he felt killing for killing was wrong, no matter how heinous, evil and despicable the crime was.

I was flabbergasted.

Didn’t justice have to be done?

My friend agreed, but contended that locking someone away for life seemed like a good way to punish and to ensure that society would be safe from someone so dangerous and immoral.

For me, a lifetime in prison just didn’t seem enough.

Prison means you still get food and shelter. Your life goes on, albeit behind bars.

In contrast, how does that rectify the innocent ones who lost their lives and should still be alive?

Our discussion shook me to the core, because I realized how much I wanted to fight for what I considered justice. For what I thought was fair.

But in talking about justice and the dignity of life, I thought of how Christ came to love and die for all. Yes, we’re all sinners, but we’re not all killers. And yet, God sent Jesus to die for the good and the bad - those who would try to live uprightly, and those who would willfully choose the path of evil. It’s a radical love that makes no sense, and is anything but fair.

It stopped me in my thoughts, because I suddenly felt a release. By demanding a life for a life, I was trying to create justice on my terms. By releasing the need to see fairness this way, I found that God gave me peace to leave punishments to Him. In place of anger, I had remorse over our fallen human existence that tries and fails at every turn. Without Christ’s goodness, we are all capable of allowing ourselves to fall so deeply into sin that we lash out in the most brutal of ways.

Without true light, we are all in darkness. While we won’t all act out to the degree of killing another human - our depravity leads us down other roads of lust, anger, malice, etc.

Two examples that further clarified this realization, deal with responses of love brought about after incredible pain and loss.

Elisabeth Elliot is a Christian writer who shares her grief experience in “Through Gates of Splendor.” In the book, she recounts how her husband and four other men felt a call to reach the "lost" people of Ecuador in the early 1950s. After months of earning the tribe’s trust, the men were attacked and speared to death. Elliot’s husband left her as a widow and her daughter fatherless. While her grief was severe, Elliot eventually went with her daughter to Ecuador and spent two years as a missionary with the tribe that killed her husband. She wrote “God is God. I dethrone Him in my heart if I demand that He act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice.”

To go back a bit further to the turn of the twentieth century, we have the devoted Italian Catholic martyr, Maria Goretti. At the age of 11, she barely survived an attack and stabbing by an attempted rapist. While in the hospital, she expressed forgiveness for her attacker and the desire to see him in Heaven. She died hours later. Her attacker was caught and put in jail, and eventually had a dream where Maria gave him flowers. When he was released, he went to Maria’s home and begged her mother for forgiveness. She forgave him and he changed his life, later becoming a laybrother.

Both families could have turned their back on these killers. With God’s help, they did not. They chose to let the killers live. And going one incredible step further, they forgave.

Will everyone repent their crime while being locked away? Only God knows. But they have a choice. As long as they breathe, they have that choice to turn from sin.

Taking another’s life as a way to bring justice is playing God, and it strips those on death row of another chance to choose God. And it strips us of the powerful freedom that comes from choosing to forgive.

While it is difficult and painful, if we lack the ability to forgive, we lack the ability to obey the words of Jesus in His prayer - “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.”

Should evil be dealt with?


Those who sin great should be greatly disciplined.

But our anger and emotion toward their actions should not result in more death.

As St. Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us: “Where sin abounded, Grace abounded all the more.”

(Photo: C.P.)

Friday, 28 November 2008 19:19

Colombia: Full Peace Requires Full Justice

For the last 30 years, most of the news about Colombia, the country where I come from, has been negative. Drug traffic, the guerrilla or paramilitary forces which took over the drug business after the big drug cartels’ dismantling have been the dominant news stories. My generation has witnessed a history of violence punctuated with slow and inefficient attempts at justice.

Three groups have been the main protagonists of a fifteen years long undeclared civil war:
1)The guerrilla organizations, FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces) and ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – Nacional Liberation Army). Both started their operations more than 30 years ago. They were clearly inspired by Marxist ideology. Later on, their ideals melted and mixed with drug trafficking and with a stubborn struggle for power through violence.

2)The action of the guerrillas and the weakness of the government have led some people to take justice into their own hands, giving room to the birth of the paramilitary. The paramilitary represents a group of armies united in the purpose of defeating the guerrilla; but, with time passing, they also took over the drug business and they became extremely violent, colluding with the government’s army in several occasions.

3)The third party is the government’s army which only gained control over most of the territory during the last years, when the US started to sponsor it.
None of these three groups can claim that their hands are clean.
Alvaro Uribe, the current Colombian president, was elected with near unanimity for the main purpose to put an end to the increasing power of the guerrillas and the paramilitaries. The government efforts to size down the guerrilla have been a decisive factor for recovering the country’s confidence. Uribe’s administration took bold steps to confront the guerrilla. Among them: the liberation of the high profile people kidnapped by the guerrilla, strikes in Ecuador’s territory, and the killing in combat of several FARC’s leaders.

Uribe also offered a peace treaty to the paramilitary and, thanks to the Opposition, he has opened a Truth Commission. All the horrors caused by the paramilitary have been unraveling in front of the public. Nevertheless, when it comes to forgiveness under the condition of cooperation with justice – a frequent mechanism in Truth Commissions -, not much has been offered to the victims by Uribe’s administration.
The country is acclaiming Uribe. Colombia seems to be on the path of progress. At last the main threats to economic development do not come from the drug war, and the global economic turmoil still blows softer in Colombian soil. Uribe holds two powerful cards: the bellicose conflict seems to have been resolved and the public wallet seems safe. His level of approval is high enough for making likely the passing of a constitutional reform in order to allow him to be reelected for a third term. Some people even joke about it: for instance, there is a Facebook group that rejects the reelection because they want Uribe to be king (“Uribe Rey: No a la Reelección”). In some polls his level of approval reaches 80%.
The support he gets from the public has two consequences: first, the radicalization of Uribe supporters, and second the increasing quality of the legal opposition. It was the opposition which pushed to have the paramilitary being tried, leading to the extradition of some chiefs; it was the opposition which got the US to push for more action in justice and human rights improvement; and it was also the opposition which first presented a project of reparations for the victims. But Uribe seldom recognizes the points of those who criticize his actions.

Most of the Colombians affected by the violence have received very little attention from the international media, apart for the big wigs such as Mrs. Betancourt. But, under the action of the opposition, a law was presented before the Congress in order to organize funding and terms of reparations for the victims. The law was expected to benefit more than 3 million people over the course of 10 years. However, in one of the last debates in Congress, the government ultimately changed completely its content. It discriminates among victims from the State army and the ones from the paramilitary. Furthermore, the law establishes a limit for the reparation an individual is allowed to receive. Finally, the Government changed the legal basis of the reparations from the basic principle of government’s responsibility towards its citizens to the one of national solidarity.
The original proposal offered resources for communities’ renewal: infrastructure projects and programs for the distribution of confiscated land among the refugees. But these projects were taken out of the proposal by the governmental coalition. Another controversial point resides in the fact that the victims have to subscribe to a database in the next two years, even though the conflict is not over yet. And last month, media revealed that in several units of the regular army, poor people recruited by officers had been disappearing without explanation. Some time after, their bodies would reappear and be presented as guerilla members shot in combat. As these dead people are not declared as “victims”, their families have no right to compensation either.
At the time of this article being written the debate is still going on. However, in the absence of international pressure over Uribe’s coalition, it is most likely that Uribe’s version of the project will pass.

Most of Colombian people -, including me! - would like to look ahead and close the book. We recognize that Uribe has changed the outlook of the war and that the government has taken back control of the country. But there is a pervasive feeling that justice is only for the rich and the powerful, which will continue to shape social interaction. As long as this is the case, we will still perceive the history of our country under the twin stars of injustice and violence.

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