Archbishop of Port of Spain and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Bridgetown (Barbados) Jason Gordon has welcomed the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) recent decision which declared as unconstitutional and a violation of the right to life, the mandatory death sentence for a conviction of murder in Barbados.
The CCJ judgement related to the consolidated appeal cases of Jabari Sensimania Nervais and Dwayne Omar Severin who have been convicted of murder.
In a release, the archbishop noted that the CCJ’s decision is “a step in the right direction” but does not remove the death penalty from the laws in Barbados, so there is still some work to be done.
He said, “Every life is a precious gift from God. We are all created in the image and likeness of God and thus have inherent dignity. The taking of one life does not therefore justify the taking of another.”
Archbishop Gordon commented the death penalty did not provide justice but was a barbaric form of revenge.
“It does not act as a deterrent for violent crimes in society—in fact, it supports the very act which took a life. We cannot teach respect for life by taking life. The mandatory death penalty left no room for a judge to consider mitigating circumstances. It did not allow for conversion, mercy or forgiveness.”
In 2016, Archbishop Gordon and other bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) appealed to politicians and citizens in the region to abolish capital punishment or the death penalty and embrace a restorative justice approach to crime and violence. A restorative justice approach, they believed, focuses on holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way and helping to achieve a sense of healing for both victims and the community.
“It embraces socialisation, rehabilitation and reconciliation, rather than retribution and vengeance,” the release said.
In it, the archbishop highlighted that successive popes, including Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI called for the abolition of the death penalty, encouraging nations to work instead towards a just means of punishment and public order.
Archbishop Gordon acknowledged a “growing movement” worldwide to abolish the death penalty, with many countries taking into consideration moral and social implications as well as alternatives such as restorative justice, which seeks to give the perpetrator an opportunity to take responsibility for his/her actions, to show remorse and to be rehabilitated. In the region, the charge is being led by the group known as The Greater Caribbean for Life.
The archbishop concluded that there has been increasing concern about the level of violence in society, especially incidents ending in death. He believed that these demonstrate the diminishing respect for life and the need for all societies to promote integral development of their citizens so they can become the best version of themselves.
He added, “The application of sound traditions and values, including love and respect for our neighbour, can help to rebuild a just and peaceful society, where conflict does not end with the taking of a life and where disagreement does not destroy but can strengthen relationships.”
This, Archbishop Gordon affirmed is not “a lofty deal” as every person, every family, every faith leader and every policymaker has a role to play to promote the value and dignity of life, this wonderful gift from God.