The way I see it

Bray People - - NEWS - FR BRIAN WHELAN

LAST WEEK Chris­tians around the world cel­e­brated Good Fri­day, which com­mem­o­rates the most fa­mous death penalty in his­tory - the cru­ci­fix­ion of Je­sus Christ. Last Fri­day it was also re­ported that a con­victed killer in Iran was saved from pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion at the last pos­si­ble mo­ment, af­ter the fam­ily of the vic­tim de­cided to spare his life.

Ac­cord­ing to the ‘eye for an eye’ rul­ing of Qisas, the sharia law of ret­ri­bu­tion, the 17 year old vic­tim's fam­ily were to take an ac­tive role in the pun­ish­ment of their son's killer - it was ex­pected that they would push away the chair on which he stood. Yet in­stead of seal­ing his fate, the vic­tim's mother slapped the killer's face and then sig­nalled her for­give­ness. The vic­tim's fa­ther then re­moved the noose.

When I read that story, it struck me how mer­ci­ful and for­giv­ing the par­ents of the 17-year-old vic­tim had been, and what an in­cred­i­ble wit­ness against the use of the death penalty this act was.

It's in­cred­i­ble to think that there are still places in the world where the death penalty is still used as a pun­ish­ment of crime. It was abol­ished in Ire­land in 1981, and through­out the world there are very few coun­tries where the death penalty is still used any­more. In say­ing that how­ever, there are still many places where it does ex­ist, such as Iran and Iraq and places where life is that much dif­fer­ent.

Known meth­ods of ex­e­cu­tion in­clude be­head­ing in Saudi Ara­bia, elec­tro­cu­tion and lethal in­jec­tion in China, Viet­nam and the United States, and sev­eral coun­tries that use hang­ing and shoot­ing.

There are no ex­act fig­ures as to how many were killed last year in China be­cause data on the use of the death penalty is con­sid­ered a state se­cret, but avail­able in­for­ma­tion in­di­cates that China car­ried out more ex­e­cu­tions than the rest of the world com­bined.

There were no ex­e­cu­tions in Europe last year, and it's prob­a­bly fair to say that most of us would think of the death penalty as some­what bar­baric in the mod- ern era. And yet, even in the United States, which most people would see as a pro­gres­sive mod­ern coun­try, the death penalty still ex­ists. There have been moves to abol­ish it in dif­fer­ent states over the years, but it is still very much a cur­rent prac­tice in this bas­tion of mod­ern democ­racy.

There are of course those who would feel that the death penalty is a good thing, that it should be used for the most vile and gross crimes, and that the people who com­mit such ter­ri­ble acts don't de­serve to live - es­pe­cially if they have taken lives them­selves.

When a per­son rapes or kills, as pun­ish­ment the govern­ment would feed, clothe, ed­u­cate, med­i­cate, en­ter­tain, and legally rep­re­sent them for the rest of their life. Fam­i­lies of their vic­tims would pay taxes, in part, to keep them com­fort­able and warm in win­ter, and cool in the sum­mer.

It makes no sense when you put it like that. And yet if you place yourself in the po­si­tion of the one who com­mit­ted the crime, per­haps out of a mo­ment of anger or jeal­ousy or com­plete des­per­a­tion, wouldn't you want a sec­ond chance?

If it were my fam­ily mem­ber that was the vic­tim, and they'd been raped or mur­dered, I think I'd more than likely want to even the score and see them hanged or ex­e­cuted too. It's a very dif­fi­cult predica­ment that we'd hope never to be in.

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