Anti-Death Penalty Campaign Gaining Momentum

4 Million Favor a Worldwide Moratorium

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ROME, JULY 19, 2002 (Zenit.org).- More than 4 million people are supporting a campaign for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.



The campaign, launched by the Community of Sant'Egidio, was renewed given the perceived favorable environment. Rome-based Sant'Egidio is a Catholic movement engaged in evangelization, aid to the poor, ecumenical dialogue and peace efforts.

Sant'Egidio spokesman Mario Marazziti said: "The two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have overruled hundreds of sentences of capital punishment and, especially, have declared unconstitutional the executions of the mentally disabled, show the importance of backing an evolution of the common feeling, of public opinion."

A Saatchi & Saatchi television ad in Italy, sponsored by Sant'Egidio, exhorts: "It is always worth fighting against the death penalty. Sign up in 2,000 post offices to abolish it." Postcards in support of the campaign are available in the post offices.

Internet users can also sign a form at www.santegidio.org/en/.

The objective is to collect 5 million signatures addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to be handed in during the next General Assembly.

According to Amnesty International, last year 3,048 people were executed in 31 countries, double the previous year. More than 100 countries have abolished capital punishment.

"The next battle is to prohibit the death sentence for those who committed crimes when they were minors," Stefania Tallei of Sant'Egidio told Vatican Radio.

The idea to collect signatures to request a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty has been supported by organizations like Amnesty International and the U.S. M2000, founded by Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking."

Numerous religious leaders support the campaign, including the Dalai Lama; Cardinals Roger Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and James Francis Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Archbishop George Carey, president of the Anglican Communion; and Frances Alguire, president of the World Methodist Council.

Sant'Egidio Community hopes to celebrate the first World Day Against the Death Penalty on Nov. 30, with the support of key organizations.