Anglicans oppose death penalty fearing ‘sharks’ will not be punished

The Anglican Church in Sri Lanka has opposed moves to authorize prison authorities to resume the execution of those sentenced to death for drug related crimes and are yet continuing to be involved in the drug trade while in prison.

The Church of Ceylon (Anglican Church) in a statement said that as Christians, they believe that all people are made in the image of God and are therefore imbued with the spark of the divine within them, however obscured and hidden it may be.

“This is why the taking of human life is expressly condemned by the Church, whether by man or by the state,” the statement signed by the Anglican Bishop of Colombo Rt. Revd. Dhiloraj Ranjit Canagasabey and the Bishop of Kurunegala Rt. Revd. Keerthisiri Fernando said.

The statement noted that the Church of Ceylon believes the decision to implement the death penalty has been rushed into without proper reflection, in the backdrop of criticism and public disquiet about the spate of gang related murders and shootings in the recent days.

“Engagement in criminal activities outside prison by convicted persons cannot take place without the connivance of prison authorities. The Government cannot absolve itself from its duty to devise ways of minimizing such occurrences. It must take quick but well designed steps to put into place strong security measures in prisons. obtaining the services of experts here and even abroad, if required. It cannot resort to hanging people to escape its own obligations,” the statement said.

The statement also noted that Sri Lanka halted judicial executions more than 40 years ago and although several governments in the past have tried to re-impose the death penalty, wiser counsel has always prevailed.

“This does not mean that we are unconcerned about the drug menace. We are indeed very deeply concerned by this widespread and very dangerous threat especially to the young people of our country and its consequences on wider society. In our pastoral visits all over the island we are very often briefed of this menace and we encourage our clergy and organizations to carry out awareness programmes and join with others in doing what ever we can to protect children. The church is willing to join and offer our assistance to the government in this regard in the educational sector,” the statement added.

The Church of Ceylon also said that it is widely spoken including in Government circles, that it is the ‘sprats’ who are being caught and punished while the ‘sharks’ are allowed to remain free to carry on their business, profitable to many, even politicians it is said.

The Church said that the law ought and must be applied in full force equally to all involved in this destructive trade. (Colombo Gazette)

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