A member of the Community of Sant'Egidio offers a red rose and a pamphlet to a passerby. (Photo by Ryan Dagur)
The lay Community of Sant'Egidio has staged simultaneous peaceful rallies in several cities across Indonesia to push the government to immediately issue a moratorium on the death penalty.
Dozens of members of the community gathered in the capital Jakarta on Nov. 28. Some carried banners that read, "Cities for Life; Cities against Death Penalty; No Justice Without Life," while distributing 500 red roses and pamphlets to passersby.
Similar actions, which marked the World Day of Cities for Life/Cities against the Death Penalty, were carried out by community members in Atambua, Ende, Kefamenanu, Kupang and Maumere in East Nusa Tenggara province; Bandung in West Java; Pontianak in West Kalimantan; Duri in Riau; Medan in North Sumatra, and Yogyakarta.
"This movement is a symbol showing that life must be respected. It's like expressing love to others. And the distribution of red roses is a way to express love," Aprianus Michael Angelo Zengedoe, the community's coordinator, told ucanews.com.
The community was seeking to push the government into revoking laws permitting the death penalty or to immediately issue a moratorium on capital punishment, he said.
Kristina Veronika, a Sant'Egidio member, believes many Indonesians want the government to immediately issue a moratorium on the death penalty.
"No one can take away someone else's life, no matter what the reason. Executions must not be done. Life imprisonment can replace the death sentence as there should be a chance for prisoners on death row to change," she told ucanews.com.
A government worker holds a rose distributed by members of the lay Community of Sant'Egidio in protest against Indonesia's death penalty. (Photo by Ryan Dagur)
In early November, Luhut Panjaitan, Indonesia's security affairs minister, said there would be a temporary suspension of executions while the government focuses on improving economic growth. His remarks prompted media reports that the government had declared a moratorium on the death penalty.
However, Panjaitan told "The Jakarta Post" on Nov. 19 that "we are not thinking about carrying out death sentences as long as our economy is still like this."
Azas Tigor Nainggolan, coordinator of the human rights desk of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People said the Indonesian people deserve better than empty promises from their government.
"What's his purpose anyway? What we need is not promises, which are then taken back," he told ucanews.com.
Joining the rally was Karsiwen, coordinator of the Jakarta-based Indonesian Migrant Workers Network, who learned of the Sant'Egidio action against the death penalty in April, when Filipino migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso was scheduled to be executed on drug charges.
In 2010, an Indonesian court sentenced Veloso to death after she was caught with 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her bag at the international airport in Yogyakarta. In April, President Widodo granted a temporary reprieve just before she was set to be executed.
Veloso, a devout Catholic, said she was tricked into transporting the heroin by a friend. Philippines justice officials have filed cases against Veloso's alleged recruiters, including the friend, with the intent of investigating them for human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
"Our deepest hope is that we can save Veloso and other death convicts. The government must review their policy on the death penalty. We believe that the death penalty can never resolve problems," Karsiwen said.