In September, Pope Francis asked us to pray his special prayer intention: for the abolition of the death penalty around the world. In Bangladesh, this prayer intention has resonated across different faith communities.
In the Catholic communities of Bangladesh, a country where the death penalty is still in force for 33 different offences, September has provided an opportunity for initiatives of awareness and prayer around this sensitive subject. It has been a moment to express the Pope’s great concern for humanity, and the Church’s mission of aiming to transform prayer into concrete gestures.
‘Our lives belong to God’
Fr Patrick Gomes is Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue, and deputy Parish Priest of the parish of Beneedwar – in Naogaon. He confirms that Bangladeshi Catholics prayed with the Pope this month for the abolition of the death penalty:
‘We fully agree with Pope Francis that the death penalty must also be abolished in Bangladesh. Our lives belong to God, thanks to him we have life and only he can take our lives, no one has the right to take life.’
Fr Gomes continues:
‘No one has the right to kill a person, whether he is a sinner or a saint. It is necessary to find alternative punishments and paths to the death penalty; the condemned could be accompanied and followed on a path of rehabilitation, repentance, reconciliation with life and with the injured people.
‘God gives a heart and can transform it. A heart is transformed with love and care. From Bangladesh, we strongly join the call for the abolition of the death penalty’.
There must be space for atonement
The Pope’s invitation asks ‘all people of good will’ to mobilise for the abolition of the death penalty in the world. And it is welcomed and shared in Bangladesh not only by Christians, but also by other religious communities.
The Secretary General of the Buddhist Federation of Bangladesh, Bhikkhu Sunanda Priyo, an important Buddhist religious leader, is close to the heartfelt intentions of Pope Francis. He shared:
‘Even if someone commits a serious crime, according to the vision of Buddhism it is not lawful to kill him. Rather it is necessary to be close to the convict, to advise him and to talk to him so that he can change.
‘When a convict receives the death penalty, he cannot walk a path of atonement, so he cannot feel and understand what he is doing wrong. Therefore, according to our Buddhist view, the death penalty should be abolished worldwide’.
It doesn’t solve any problems
Sujon Roy, a young Hindu from Bangladesh also expressed support for the Pope’s prayer request. He stated:
‘The death penalty doesn’t solve any problems. It’s against God’s creation. It should be removed from our legislation’.
In Bangladesh, a total of 162 people have been sentenced to death by courts in the last six months alone.
The Bangladesh Penal Code provides for the death penalty for 33 different offenses. In 2020, the government also approved the death penalty as the maximum penalty for the crime of rape. As in other countries which still have the death penalty, the death penalty is justified as a deterrent for crime. However, according to Amnesty International, the number of executions in Bangladesh increased by 60% in 2021 compared to the previous year. This is just one example; the same report says that 2052 people were sentenced to death in 56 countries globally last year, and notes that use of the death penalty increased by 20%.
Join us to pray for change
We fervently join Pope Francis in praying for an end to the death penalty in every country in the world, joining with our sisters and brothers of all faiths and none who are close to the Holy Father’s prayer.