CAPITAL PUNISHMENT has proved to be equally divisive in secular and religious circles. In the latter, its proponents argue that it was God’s will that those who commit heinous crimes must be put to death.
They cite a number of biblical passages such as in the book of Genesis 9:6 that says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man; by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
However, a number of religious organisations have continued to condemn death penalty from a perspective of faith. Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Interfaith groups are all involved in the movement toward a moratorium on executions.
The Qur’an, on the other hand, allows the death penalty for murder, although forgiveness and compassion are strongly encouraged. The murder victim’s family is given a choice to either insist on the death penalty, or to pardon the perpetrator and accept monetary compensation for the loss of their loved one (2:178).
As a country, Rwanda abolished the death penalty and opted for reconciliation as a way of healing communities following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. There are however, a number of countries that enforce the death penalty for serious crimes such as murder, rape, and even apostasy and homosexual behaviour in cases where strict Sharia Laws are followed.
Most of the countries have abolished it on the basis that human life is sacred and no one or no law has the right to take it away.
“Islamic philosophy holds that a harsh punishment serves as prevention to serious crimes that harm individual victims, or threaten to destabilize the foundation of society,” says Issa Salim, an Imam in a Nyamirambo Mosque.
Many individuals who favour death sentence aver that it is a strong deterrent to crime apart from being honouring God, as some biblical verses imply that God commends death penalty.
On the other hand, those against it also quote the same Bible, referring to an instance when a prostitute was brought before Jesus and he tactfully refused to endorse her punishment that was supposed to be death by public stoning.
According to an article appearing in Catholic publication, World News of June 20, 2013, Pope Francis reaffirmed Vatican opposition to capital punishment.
In a message to a meeting held in Madrid, the Pope said that the church’s position on death penalty is “a courageous reaffirmation of the conviction that humanity can successfully confront criminality” without taking human life.
He recommended that “capital sentences be commuted to a lesser punishment that allows for time and incentives for the reform of the offender.” The Catholic Church and a number of churches have long advocated the sacredness of life over retributive justice.
There are a number of people who have also found it in their hearts to forgive those who have done grave crimes against them, saying that theirs is a divine decision they have no control over.
Jean-Paul Samputu says that he forgave the person, a childhood friend, who killed his family members. He however hastens to add that many people, some of them staunch Christians, have continued to rail him over his decision to forgive.
“Forgiveness comes from the heart and since religious institutions are supposed to appeal to the hearts of its followers, then they should be the first ones to preach against death sentence and advocate for forgiveness. A person deserves a second chance,” he says.