The Indian Bishops Conference have welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court to reduce the sentence of the death penalty to life imprisonment for Dara Singh, the man responsible burning alive the Australian Catholic missionary Graham Steines and his two young sons in Orissa in 1999.
In a statement they said: “The Church has always maintained a clear position on the death penalty, in that she firmly believes in the opportunity to repent and to convert one's life. Even in the case of Dara Singh, the Church would afford the opportunity to change his life, even though he committed a hateful crime.
"The Church's view is to preserve and promote life, rather than destroy it, and thus she gives much attention to the values of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Hindu extremists burned alive Graham Stewart Staines and his sons Philip and Timothy, age nine and seven, while they were sleeping in their station wagon in the village of Manoharpur, in Keonjhar, Orissa, on 22 January, 1999.
Graham's widow Gladys said in an interview with AsiaNews during a visit to India in 2009, that while she missed her husband and sons terribly she will always continue working to fulfil her husband's dream to live in peace and harmony, and work together for the good of all.
She said: "I forgive the other, because I have first received forgiveness from Jesus Christ - I have encountered the presence of Jesus in my life and this is the spirit I share. When we forgive, there is no bitterness and we live our lives and continue the task entrusted to us - with His grace and peace...
"To the people of the world I say, do not give up hope, pray for India."