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Christians, the Death Penalty and Restorative Justice

Media Release : Christians, the Death Penalty and Restorative Justice

Date :10th October 2014

Today is the 12th World Day Against the Death Penalty, promoted by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. Its aim is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty and to achieve the universal abolition of the death penalty. To achieve its goal, the World Coalition advocates for a definitive end to death sentences and executions in those countries where the death penalty is in force. In some countries, it is seeking to obtain a reduction in the use of capital punishment as a first step towards abolition.

“New Zealanders forget that the death penalty was not abolished in New Zealand until 1961, due largely to the efforts of the Hon Ralph Hanan, the National government’s Minister of Justice at the time.” Says Kim Workman, founder of the Robson Hanan Trust, which manages the Rethinking Crime and Punishment and Justspeak projects. In its latest blog, “Christians, the Death Penalty and Restorative Justice,”http://blog.rethinking.org.nz/2014/10/christians-death-penalty-and.htmlWorkman acknowledges Hanan's influence. “His role was to introduce the legislation to Parliament, but he convinced enough of his party colleagues to vote with the opposition and thus abolished the death penalty in New Zealand.Hanan and nine other National MPs crossed the floor and voted with Labour to abolish the death penalty for murder in New Zealand. As Minister of Justice, it was his responsibility to introduce the law to Parliament, but he did so by saying that he disagreed with it. He convinced enough of his party colleagues to vote with the opposition and thus abolished the death penalty in New Zealand.”

“From time to time, there have been half-hearted efforts to reintroduce the death penalty. In 2002, Christian politician Brian Neeson, a leading advocate for tougher sentences, called for the re-introduction of the death penalty, saying “I had to put my dog down once and I found it almost impossible to do, but there are some people I wouldn’t have any trouble with”. (West Weekly,May 22, 2002, p.8).”

“New Zealand Christians even today, are split over the issue, and the blog tracks a lively debate within the ranks of Prison Fellowship International, a Christian Prison Ministry, at the beginning of this Century. “Charles Colson, Chairman and founder of Prison Fellowship International changed his personal position, and began to advocate for the death penalty. The then President Ron Nikkel, took the issue to the international membership which voted unanimously to support the abolition of the death penalty.”

“Prison Fellowship New Zealand took an influential role in the debate, arguing that Christians should support redemptive justice and that restorative justice has the potential to restore peace and renewal of hope.”

“Representatives from those countries that had experienced civil war and major tragedy, were the strongest in their condemnation of the death penalty. Survivors of the Rwandan genocide for example, were unanimous in their view that restorative justice appeal was a better approach, in that it appealed to the better side of human nature and not the destructive, vengeful dark side. It was a movement of hope.”

Reference: Blog Link: ‘Christians, the Death Penalty and Restorative Justice’;

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