From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC: Capital punishment

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Fri, 17 Jan 2003 16:13:49 +0100

World Council of Churches
Press Release PR-03-02
For Immediate Use
17 January 2002

WCC applauds US governor's decision on death penalty

The World Council of Churches' Commission of Churches on International
Affairs (WCC/CCIA) has today sent a letter to George Ryan, the former
governor of Illinois, regarding his decision to commute the death sentences
of all the prisoners on death row in the State of Illinois. 

The full text of the letter sent by Peter Weiderud, WCC/CCIA director,

"The World Council of Churches welcomes and appreciates your decision of the
11th January, as Governor of the State of Illinois, to commute the death
sentences of 167 prisoners on death row to life in prison without parole.
Your action, based on the desire to fulfil a moral obligation because the
system is "haunted by the demon of error", is a bold and significant
statement that questions capital punishment. For years, churches and human
rights organizations have said that death penalty is a punishment that is
often used in a discriminatory way on the poor, minorities, on oppressed
groups within societies, or against political opponents of those in power. 

The Council believes that all human beings created in God's image have
inherent dignity and are of infinite worth, and that the taking of human life
is against the will of God. The capital punishment operates against the
Christian principles of compassion, love and forgiveness. To promote the
abolition of capital punishment is an expression of Christian belief in the
sanctity of life. As a long-standing advocate for abolishment of capital
punishment, the Council has consistently urged governments to sign and ratify
the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights that aims at abolition of death penalty. In keeping with
this position, the World Council of Churches has campaigned with other
international organizations for abolition of the death penalty in the United
States of America, and are therefore greatly encouraged by your action. 

It is our hope that the decision taken by you in this matter will stimulate
others concerned in the United States and other countries as well to review
and reconsider the flaws inherent in the system of capital punishment."

For further information, please contact the Media Relations Office,  tel: +41
(0)22 791 64 21 / (41 22) 791 61 53


The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in
more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian
traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works
cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which
meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in
1948 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary
Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

World Council of Churches
Media Relations Office
Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
Fax: (41 22) 798 1346

PO Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

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