In November, 1,150 cities around the world—including 60 capitals—lit up public buildings to support an end to the death penalty. The “Cities for Life—Cities Against the Death Penalty” campaign was started by the Rome-based Catholic Sant’Egidio Community in 2002. The most recent event resulted in a special evening lighting of the Coliseum in Rome, Cathedral Square in Barcelona, and St. James Cathedral in Toronto.
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Art Laffin, a member of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, D.C., attended the Cities for Life event in Maputo, Mozambique. “My brother Paul was murdered 10 years ago and it was only my faith that carried me through that unspeakable tragedy,” Laffin told Sojourners. “In Maputo, I told that story but I also spoke about Dennis Soutar, the mentally ill homeless man that fell through the cracks of U.S. society and ended up killing Paul. I asked them to pray for Dennis. Mercy and forgiveness are the only ways to break the cycle of violence. That’s why the death penalty should be abolished.”
In 2007 and 2008, the U.N. General Assembly adopted two resolutions calling for the worldwide moratorium on executions. In the last three years, three states in the U.S. have abandoned the death penalty, bringing the total to 15.