CAPE TOWN, MARCH 16, 2021 (CISA)-“We are a church that preaches conversion of human beings, and we believe that people can change for the better. The death sentence cannot be a solution, especially considering how poor our justice system still is across most of Africa,” Dumisani Vilakati, director of Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) has said urging the Church in Africa to be more vocal against the death penalty.
Fr Vilakati was speaking March 15 following two executions in Botswana in February and three death sentences in Malawi in 2019 without executions. According to Fr Vilakati there have been numerous wrongful convictions across the continent, and inmates are increasingly having to wait longer and longer for their trials to be conducted.
“What we need to do as a society is to educate people, and the Church should play its role in espousing the sanctity of life than having society eliminating people through death penalty. We should be pro-life and give people a second chance,” said Vilakati.
Boniface Chibwana, coordinator for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace of Malawi’s bishop’s conference thinks African Catholic officials can do more to drum up support for the abolition of the death penalty across the continent.
“To deter crimes such as murder, the Church needs to progressively and actively socialize the young using the human rights approach, so that many of its followers should grow in Christ while respecting the human rights culture to build societies where such rights as the protection of life are a norm,” he said.
In 2019, there was a 53% jump in death sentence convictions across sub-Saharan Africa compared to 212 convictions a year earlier. These death sentences resulted from murder convictions in Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.