03/29/2012, 00.00
JAPAN

"Death penalty could destroy Japan", Nagasaki archbishop says

Mgr Joseph Mitsuaki Takami talks to AsiaNews about the decision of Japan's Justice minister to uphold three death sentences. Japanese society, he said, "believes in an 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth', but its blind spot on the issue could harden its soul." By contrast, "The Church has always fought for a culture of life. We are trying to get the government to abolish the death penalty."

Nagasaki (AsiaNews) - Japanese society "believes in an 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth', but its blind spot on the issue could harden its soul," said Mgr Joseph Mitsuaki Takami. The archbishop of Nagasaki spoke to AsiaNews about a recent decision by Japan's Justice minister to uphold three death sentences. "I cannot comment about the individual cases because the details are not known, but the battle against the death penalty must continue," he added.

The three death row inmates were executed today, almost two years from the last executions in July 2010. The prisoners, hanged in separate prisons, had all been convicted of multiple murders.

Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa noted that 80 per cent of the Japanese public supports capital punishment. Still, hangings have always proved to be controversial in the country.

The Catholic Church has always opposed the practice. "All Japanese bishops are for the abolition of the death penalty. There are no differences of opinion. Even if the person who is killed is a murderer, his death is another murder, by the state this time. Humanity must renew its sense of living together. We must all consider ourselves children of God again."

"It is not only about philosophical or religious arguments," Mgr Takami said. "We must consider the fact that imposing the death penalty entails the most demanding decision a man can take. Japan's legal system is not perfect. Juridical errors are possible. Many have occurred in the past, and no one can come back from hanging."

The archbishop of Nagasaki has been fighting for years to see love blossom again in the life of the country. "I and the other members of the Bishops' Conference have published a book titled 'Looking at life'. In it, we call on Japan to rediscover the importance and the beauty of God's most important gift and stop mortifying man."

However, Mgr Tanaki agrees with the government on one account. "Until now, a majority of Japanese have been in favour of the death penalty. 'Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' is the prevailing mindset. However, in so doing society's blind spot on the issue could harden its soul. It is sad to say but this is how most Japanese think, especially victims' families who clamour for the death penalty. I can empathise with them but they are wrong."

Within the Bishops' Conference, some members are "engaged in a study and prayer session to encourage the government to abolish the death penalty. It will be a hard battle to fight but we cannot pull back."

 

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