[BOOK REVIEW] "DEATH PENALTY - Why Should Be Abolished" / by Jose Llompart, Seibo Bunko, 2008, 525Yen
[SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 144 / June, 15,2008]

Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center) 
"DEATH PENALTY - Why Should Be Abolished"
by Jose Llompart, Seibo Bunko, 2008, 525Yen

This is again a book on death penalty. Nevertheless, the approaches are different. We might say that they are totally contrary to the book reviewed in the last issue.
In the past issue I presented the book written by Mori Tatsuya. I mentioned that the author had met with several people to discuss the issue of capital punishment and questioned himself about the problem. He recalls fluently the reality of the difficulties to abolish death penalty, based on the fact that Japanese people consider the issue an emotional one and not an abstract one. Opposite to that, professor Llompart - in fact he had been my professor at Sophia University 30 years ago - appeals to the mind. In fact, he has been a hard legal liner. Here are his introductory words.

This book stresses "thinking." Needless to say that a prerequisite to think rightly is to "know" everything connected to the issue concerned. But, it is regrettable that the common knowledge of ordinary people concerning death punishment is very poor, is amazingly lacking. Most probably, in ordinary life, people do not meet with a prisoner on death row and have never seen gallows. And since they have never watch the killing of such prisoners, it becomes totally unrelated to them. They will ask, "Why to think about something that has been going on for so long?"
But, professor Llompart has met a prisoner on death row. Paulo Yoneda was handled a death sentence for robbery and murder and while in jail received baptism from Jesuit Fr. Enomiya (Lasalle). In 1972, he was executed. If you meet once a prisoner like that, you will not be able to think any more irresponsibly that death penalty should be kept. I, myself, have a similar experience. The occasion to be involved in the abolition of capital punishment was due to report in this Bulletin on the memoirs of a death row prisoner.
This book presents the realities of death penalty in Japan, as well as discussions going on the issue from legal, ethical and Christian perspectives. Professor Llompart also introduces a valuable experience of his visit to the gallows in Hiroshima. At present, excluding parliamentarians, nobody is allowed to see them.
Besides that, the author explains, politely, the main reasons why Japan should abolish capital punishment and what would happen after that. There is not enough space to handle it, but his words are easily understood and, even those that are not accustomed to read about death penalty could read this book without resistance. It is a pocket book of about 200 pages, but it summarizes the wisdom of this professor of Sophia University for more than 30 years of teaching.
Professor Llompart writes in the introduction of the book.

Christians are not the only ones interested in this issue of death penalty. Nevertheless, when one reflects on the issue from the point of view of Christianity, I believe that Christians have an obligation to think of this, they cannot become indifferent. The reason is clear. Jesus Christ commanded us to love one another. This means to love the others as oneself and as a result Christians cannot be indifferent to persons on a death row but they should think of them as persons that God loves.

This is not neat idealism. These words come from deep love and faith and they are based in our wills and backed by human reason. They go beyond superficial emotions. Provided that we are real Christians how can we agree with the thinking, "bad guys should die?" Do we not ordinarily pray, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us?" This faith must be implemented in our daily activities.
The Japanese movement for the abolition of death penalty is now facing a crucial stage and I would like as many as possible to read this book.

(Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
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