Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center)
On the evening of last November 27, the Religious Community Network, "Call for Moratorium Now" held its 4th seminar in Tokyo's Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan.
The speaker was cameraman Toshi Kazama living in New York (USA). Mr. Kazama has been taking photos of about 20 American youth sentenced to death, for 8 consecutive years. When he came to Japan last May, he campaigned against death sentence in 9 different regions of Japan. This time, during his visit, in the second half of November, Mr. Kazama toured 10 towns conducting open public lectures for young Japanese. He had a very tight schedule while in Japan, and left Japan on November 29 to visit Hong Kong and Taiwan for lecturing against death sentence, before returning to New York.
The conference hall was decorated with photos taken by Mr. Kazama. His talk did not remain on discussing abstractly death penalty, but using the power point system he showed the names and faces of those sentenced to death with whom he is involved.

Prisoners Sentenced to Death

When Mr. Kazama went to Alabama jail, for the first time to make a photo reportage, the director of the jail was un-cooperative and scolded him in a loud voice. Nevertheless he could take photos of the electric chair and two months later brought copies of them from New York to Alabama. The jail director, taken by surprise, praised him, "All kinds of people come here, asking for a favor, but you were the first one to keep your promise." Since then, he let him to move freely around.
He showed a girl, the only survivor of a Vietnamese restaurant owners' family assassinated by thieves. The girl overcame her hate and built a positive attitude in life.
There are all kinds of youngsters sentenced to death. A 16 year-old youth, with a low IQ, became a sex toy of other prisoners and went around saying that he was a 'bitch.'
Again, a young girl who felt in love with a boy killed his girl friend and cutting part of her body brought it along with her. Love to her most probably meant exclusivity. During the trial that piece of the body was offered as a proof, but was never given back to the relatives.
Mr. Kazama recognizes that each youth execution is not such a monster as he had thought before. Rather, people seemed to be thirsty for love. Relatives of the prisoners, sentenced to death, stand gently in front of the lens of his camera, but as soon as he finishes taking photos, they fall into free laughing. There are, also, parents that start to negotiate drugs with their partners. If he were to live within such environment, Mr. Kazama asked, could he refrain from killing people?
Among the prisoners, there are sometimes those accused of false charges that come out into the light from solitary cells. American lawyer groups recognize that there are sometimes many prisoners, mainly among blacks with a death sentence, that, because of their low educational level they don't know how to fight in court. In spite of that, executions of youth are conducted in many American states. According to Mr. Kazama, executions make social contradictions clearly appear.

Problems of creativity

Ordinary people think of death sentence as: "were I a victim's relative, I would opt for the execution of the criminal." In fact, sometimes people contact our center to express opinions like that. Mr. Kazama rather thinks differently. He asks himself, "In case I were a young person sentenced to death, or maybe I were the Director of a jail, or if I were the only survivor in an assassination plot, what my opinion would be"? That is why, when a robber tried to kill him last year, Mr. Kazama insisted, "I don't keep any resentment at the criminal. I only want him to recognize his crime and really apologize for it."
Outsiders say, "Criminals should be executed to heal the wounds of the relatives of the murdered persons." Such an opinion seems irresponsible. From his own experience Mr. Kazama affirms that the demands of the families of the victims are for financial and psychological support. Outsiders execute the death sentence without getting involved, but just using the name of the victim, as if they were acting for justice. The only way to get peace of heart is by killing a person. Executions are done to fulfill the law. Wars are declared to kill people in the name of justice and grievances and terrorism kill people under religious motivations. "What is, really, the meaning of that," Mr. Kazama questions. "Is not Religion the one with a message for love"?
Mr. Kazama plans to come back to Japan next year to continue campaigning for a moratorium.

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