Photo (left): George White talks to students about his life experience and how his relationship with God was challenged after the murder of his wife and being wrongly convicted of her murder.
On Wednesday morning, March 4th, St. Charles Preparatory School hosted a special presentation, “Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing,” at an all-school assembly.
The Journey of Hope team talks travels around to speak with students and other groups about alternatives to the death penalty. Heading the presentation was Abraham Bonowitz, co-founder of the group Death Penalty Action. “We have been asked to come here today to share information and real experiences from people who have stories none of us want,” he said. Several people shared personal stories of how murder had affected they and their families and presented powerful lessons on forgiveness. They included George White, husband of murder victim, wrongfully convicted; Melinda Elkins Dawson, daughter of murder victim; and Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., Executive Director of Ohio Council of Churches whose youngest sister was murdered in Cleveland.
Bonowitz noted how in 2007, Catholic Bishops which began a campaign to end the use of the death penalty, needed a mechanism to bring this message to the local level (parishes, schools). They wanted to provide people with a real and personal understanding of the issue on an ongoing basis. Out of this effort came the Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) in 2017, he noted, giving people the tools and support to take action on this issue.
Bonowitz also encouraged the St. Charles students, faculty and staff to lift up their values and work to change the law politically. “In the coming days, you will have the opportunity to contact with the governor, speaker of house, senate president and representatives,” he said. “This is how we advance the Church’s agenda and Human Rights.” Everyone was also invited to encourage their friends and family members to attend a community presentation by the group being conducted at St. Francis DeSales High School’s auditorium at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 9th.
The group was scheduled to continue the discussion with St. Charles students throughout the rest of the day by going to visit all junior and senior religion classes to conduct question and answer sessions.
The Catholic Mobilizing Newtork’s mission is to end the death penalty and promote the use of restorative justice in our country. CMN expresses the fundamental belief that all those who have caused or been impacted by crime should be treated with dignity. Working with bishops, State Catholic Conferences, Catholic dioceses, religious communities, partner organizations, members of the laity and more, CMN empowers people of faith to speak out against the death penalty in their own communities and implore their state officials to repeal the practice. CMN works closely with Catholic and secular anti-death penalty partners to achieve maximum impact. They seek change through the use of radio podcasts in English and Spanish, workshops with facilitator guides, state-specific fact sheets, parish bulletin inserts, and more. CMN also networks and presents at national, faith-based conferences each year to educate and mobilize people of faith to end the death penalty.
Three people spoke whose lives had been directly affected by the murder of a family member and how they had come to reconcile that they did not call for the death penalty in those cases. Also on hand from Washington, D.C., was Emma Tacke, CMN’s Associate Director of Community Engagement. She noted that the Church’s most recent three Popes have called for an end to the death penalty globally, after the Church had opposed it in all but the most egregious cases. She invited the attendees to join their network and sign the group’s National Pledge to end the death penalty and to learn about, advocate and pray for the end of the death penalty.
Tacke asked that everyone to bring the issue home to their families and “ask yourself…what do you think about the death penalty? What does our faith teach us and what are we compelled to do as people who are called to uphold the dignity of all human life?”
Photo (above): Abraham Bonowitz, co-founder of the group Death Penalty Action, speaks to students at the “Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing” all-school assembly on Wednesday morning in the Walter Student Commons. In the background are presenters from the Catholic Mobilizing Network sharing their unfortunate experiences of murder and how they still embrace the notion that the death penalty be abolished but still support justice being served.