Indonesia: concern grows for three Catholics facing death penalty

 Fears are growing over the fate of three Catholics from Poso in Sulawesi. Who have been given death sentences. Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwa and Dominggus da Silva wre accused of homicide during inter-religious clashes in Poso 2000-2002. The execution was originally set for 11 August. However it was postponed after an intense campaign of awareness raising and prayer organised by the local Catholic Church which brought responses from many politicians and church leaders including an appeal from Pope Benedict XVI. The official reason for the suspension of the execution was "more time was needed to examine information and evidence". Father Patrizius Pa, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies told Fides: "The Church in Indonesia is doing all it can to save the lives of the three men. We are close to them and we want Indonesia to abolish the death penalty. Human life belongs to God the Creator it cannot be taken by man. The civil authorities agree it is important to avoid making a mistake with a hasty sentence. In many parts of the country Catholics have organised special prayers and awareness building campaigns. We have firm hope, the Lord will hear our prayer." One of the many organisations in Indonesia and other countries involved in trying to save the lives of the three men is the Rome based Sant Egidio Community which has said it hopes evidence given by new witnesses will be taken into account in view of fair judgement. Sant Egidio also hopes Indonesia will reopen the debate on the compatibility of the death sentence with the nation's guiding Pancasila principles which guarantee the right of every person to respect for life and dignity and that a moratoria on executions will be called to allow time for an in-depth debate. The local Catholic community has worked hard to increase awareness and hopes the sentence will be commuted into a life sentence. Fr Jimmy Tumbelaka, the chaplain who cares for the three men, says the people of Indonesia are against the execution and realise that it would only provoke more inter-religious clashes. The Catholic Bishop of Manado, Bishop Joseph Suwatan, welcomed the news that the execution had been suspended and called for an act of clemency - as requested also by the Pope in his letter - expressing the hope that Indonesia will abolish capital punishment. Indonesian Catholics resident in Italy have formed their own Justice and Peace Committee whose members are mainly men and women religious and seminarians in Rome for theological studies and for whom the period spent in Rome is an opportunity to share the needs of the Church in Indonesia with the universal Church. Source: Fides

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