Mario Marazziti of Sant'Egidio Mario Marazziti of Sant'Egidio 

Over 2,000 cities light up against death penalty

The Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio is organizing its annual international campaign “Cities for life day” to raise awareness on death penalty. Four US cities will join the initiative.

By Lisa Zengarini

On November 30, 2,446 cities across the world will join “Cities for life day”, the annual campaign against death penalty organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Italian  lay Catholic association dedicated to the provision of social services and arbitrating conflicts. 

Four US cities joining

On that day, starting from the Colosseum in Rome, they will all light up a symbolic monument and organize events in order to raise public awareness on death penalty and on the right to life. Joining the event are also cities in countries where death penalty is still practiced, including Berkeley (CA), Boston (MA), Carrboro (NC), West Hollywood (CA).

30 November 1786, an historical date

The date chosen for this annual event is of particular significance: on that day, in 1786, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany became the first state in Europe and in the world to ban torture and capital punishment, following the publication Cesare Beccaria’s masterpiece  “Crimes and Punishments” in 1764. In the pamphlet the famous Italian Enlightenment writer put forth some of the first modern arguments against death penalty, which since the 18th century has been gradually abolished in many countries across the world. 

First campaign launched in 2002

Although most nations have abolished capital punishment today, over 50% of the world's population live in countries where the death penalty is retained, such as China, India, parts of the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran. 

This is why the Community of Sant’Egidio launched the “Cities for life day” worldwide initiative in 2002 , in collaboration with Amnesty international and other organizations, including the International Federation of Action by Christians for the abolition of Torture (FIACAT) In that year 80 cities joined and have increased constantly since. 

Growing consensus 

During a press conference in Rome on Friday, the coordinator in the international campaign, Mario Marazziti of Sant’Egidio, remarked that in the past four decades the trend has changed steadily: “In 1977 there were only 16 abolitionist countries” and since then “133 countries have abolished the death penalty or are observing a moratorium and have not practided executions for at least 10 years”, Marazziti said. He also noted that the United States too are following this positive trend, though it was tarnished by the 13 federal executions carried out during the last six months if the Trump Administration.

Webinar with Sister Helen Prejean

Events organized in Rome for “Cities for life day” include a webinar titled  "No Justice Without Life - For a world without the death penalty, in which the President of the European Parliament, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakull Karman and American activist Sister Helen Prejean will take part.

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27 November 2021, 14:27