1999-10-18 00:00:00

The administrator of the Catholic diocese of Hyderabad has issued a pastoral letter condemning the death penalty and "honor killings" of women in Pakistan.

"Death penalty and honor killing are manifestations of a complex reality of evil in our society," Father Anjou Soares wrote in a pastoral letter issued Sept. 14, the feast of the Holy Cross.

Committed Christians, he said, must encourage people "to reflect seriously and in an informed way on these important social and moral issues."

Jesus "transformed the death penalty into an instrument of our redemption," he said, asking what the response of Jesus´ followers is to the death penalty "that is being given out so speedily by (Pakistan´s) Anti-Terrorist Courts."

Fighting violence with violence does not "foster an ethic of respect for life that moves beyond vengeance," he observed. He deplored that Pakistanis have become somehow inured to death, that "violent death no longer hurts."

The Hyderabad administrator reminded Catholics that Jesus´ law of love supersedes the Old Testament´s "an eye for an eye" concept of justice.

Father Soares also lamented that in August a resolution condemning honor killing "was bulldozed in the (Pakistani) Senate in an attempt to sweep the heinous crime under the carpet.

Hundreds of Pakistani women are reportedly killed every year by or with the approval of their family for "offenses against its honor" such as alleged sexual misconduct, initiating divorce proceedings or even being raped.

In most cases, the killers are not even prosecuted, because social norms dictate or condone such a practice.

A draft bill that would legitimize honor killing would relegate women in Pakistan "to the status of subhumans" Father Soares warned.

"The issue should serve as a focal point for us Christians and especially for our justice and peace groups, for a sustained movement against our social and cultural order that has outlived its utility," he exhorted.

He noted that while human rights and other non-governmental organizations have strongly condemned honor killing, the Church has remained silent.

The final point he touched upon in his reflection on "the triumph of the cross" is Pakistani Christians´ temptation to "feel sorry" for themselves over their plight as a minority community that is not respected or appreciated.

Father Soares advised Christians to do what Jesus has commanded them and to be content in knowing that "we have only done our duty."

Reacting to the letter, Dominican Father Martin Connors told UCA News, "I am very happy to read the pastoral letter. We have been quiet about death sentences for too long.

"I am surprised nobody took up the issue earlier. I congratulate Father Anjou on his courage to issue the pastoral letter."

Meanwhile a spokesperson of the National Justice and Peace Commission said that he was also glad to read the pastoral.

Honor killing, and all forms of murder, has to be condemned by all, he said, while admitting that it is not possible to make statements regularly.


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