“Blessed are the merciful…”

On Wednesday evening I spoke briefly at the Amnesty International vigil on the forecourt of Adelaide’s Pilgrim Uniting Church. The vigil was for all those on death row in Indonesia. As the names were read a candle was lit for each one.

I said that the Uniting Church opposes capital punishment whether it’s in Indonesia, the United States, China or anywhere else. We respect the rule of law, and the sovereign right of nations to make and enforce their own laws. But, I said, bad law needs to be challenged. And capital punishment is bad law.

Capital punishment punishes many more than the individuals upon whom it is inflicted. It also wounds everyone who loves its particular victim – parents, grandparents, siblings, children, friends…

It wounds anyone who has come to look to the rehabilitated criminal as a source of inspiration and hope…

It wounds the society in whose name people are put to death as a punishment or a warning to others or because we’ve run out of ideas about how to respond to crime…

I said that I was conscious of the irony of speaking like this while wearing a cross around my neck – a symbol of office. I knew that it was a representation of an ancient implement of torture and execution. But it is not used to glorify or legitimise capital punishment. It represents the news that God is with us in the deepest, darkest, most cruel and pointless moments – sharing our suffering, and promising redemption, justice and peace.

It’s the cross that calls me to this vigil, to stand for mercy in the name God who is merciful.

That’s what I said.




    • Well considered and valuable words and sentiments Andrew. Our religious leaders like yourself and our jurists are appropriately focusing more on the injustice to ALL who face the horrors of capital punishment. Perhaps the focus on the fate of two of our fellow citizens will help Australians to be in prayer for justice and mercy for all, in line with our call to live out the Kingdom of God.

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