Pope's statement rekindles calls to abolish death penalty in Zambia
By Mwansa Pintu
Catholic News ServiceLUSAKA, Zambia (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's recent statement to a Zambian ambassador that the Catholic Church will always regard the right to life as sacred even in the face of powerful influences that seek to place limitations on life has rekindled calls for abolition of the capital punishment in the central African nation.
Lawyers and human rights activists once more have begun speaking out, calling on all nations, especially in Africa, to respect the dignity of every human being from conception to natural death.
In a ceremony Dec.16 during which Royson Mukwena of Zambia was among a group of new ambassadors to present their credentials to the Vatican, Pope Benedict encouraged the leadership of the central African state to put in place laws that would respect and defend the dignity of human life.
"It is greatly hoped that Zambia will continue to foster due respect for the rights of every human being without exception, in harmony with the duty to protect life from conception," said the pope.
Lawyer Lewis Mosho was among those who said the pontiff's call should be viewed as an invitation to all of Africa to consider abolishing the death penalty.
"We are living in a modern society where death should not be used as punishment anymore," he said. "People should bear in mind that only God gives life and no one else has the right to take it."
Human rights activist Mathews Mkandawire said that the rehabilitation of violent offenders should be a priority so that people can return to mainstream society and contribute to their communities.
"If we are Christians worthy of the name then our laws should be designed to protect and preserve life, just like the Holy Father rightly observed," Mkandawire said. "It should be about time we did away with 'an eye for an eye' kind of dealing with offenders because you cannot correct a wrong with another wrong."
He added, "The death penalty is a wrong, and my call to all nations of this world is to stop it because it is a wrong."
Nathan Nganjo, a legal officer with the Zambia National Housing Authority said the pope's call to raise up the dignity of human life must be taken seriously by the leaders of African nations.
"The right to life of every individual should not be dependent upon political choices or social consensus but on right reasoning," he explained. "We have always called for nations worldwide to abolish the death penalty because it is wrong. We are happy that we have the support of the Holy See and the entire Catholic Church."