After we released our letter from faith leaders to Gov. Cooper in April, asking him to commute the sentences of all 137 people on North Carolina’s death row, we heard from many lay people who wanted to add their names. In June, we launched a new letter inviting all people of faith in North Carolina to sign on. The letter was released during NCCADP’s Abolition Sabbath Weekend, five days of prayerful reflection and education about the death penalty.
As we spent time with people of faith across North Carolina, we asked for their perspectives: How does your faith call you to this cause?
Nancy J. Jones of Raleigh started Catholics for Abolition NC, through which she hopes to educate Catholics about “the fundamental evil of the death penalty, not just in taking a life before its time but perhaps removing a chance for redemption.” She started leading a monthly online prayer vigil for abolition of the death penalty worldwide: “I felt the urge to do something and prayer is my first go-to. I believe prayer changes things! So I sat down and wrote the prayers for the vigil. It’s just my conversation with God.”
James Lyon’s Muslim faith inspires his volunteer work with people who are incarcerated as well as his opposition to the death penalty. “People can change,” says James, who spent time in prison himself and now lives in Sanford. “I was capable of change so how can I condemn someone else? Religion gave me back things I had lost: character, determination, diligence. That’s just as true for the brothers I meet in prison. They help others, they try to spread words of wisdom, even when they have no hope of getting out. I speak with some of them, and I think to myself: when it comes to the religion we both practice, he’s more devout than I am.”
Sara Baldwin heard the call while she was in social work school at UNC. She took an internship at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, where she found a special connection to her first client through their shared Christian faith. 20 years later, she has moved from North Carolina to Florida but continues her advocacy for those on death row.
In an inspiring article and podcast, Sara recently shared the values that maintain her passion for the work. She finds particular meaning in this Biblical passage: “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Sara reflects, “in these cases, the jury is being asked to condemn an individual, not just to condemn the act. We can all stand together and condemn violence, but jurors in capital cases are being asked to condemn a person. I don’t stand with that.”
It is our shared humanity with those condemned to death — the recognition that we are all God’s children – that inspires so many North Carolinians of diverse faith backgrounds to oppose the death penalty. Abolition Sabbath Weekend offered people of faith an opportunity to put that profound spiritual truth into action.
If your faith also calls you to this cause, it’s not too late to sign the letter to Gov. Cooper.
North Carolina has executed 43 human beings since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. We seek to dwarf that statistic by collecting ten times that number of signatures, 430, in just five days. By the time we present this letter to Gov. Cooper in August, we would like him to see 4,300 names, or even 43,000! Join us!