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On Faith


Saturday, May 5, 2001

TV execution
is bad omen

The month of April is now gone, a month remembered in these islands for strikes in both our university and our schools. As we move into what is often called "the sunny month of May," a dark cloud is sitting not too far away.

The week before Easter, the attorney general of the United States announced that the federal government would provide -- and pay for -- closed-circuit television of the execution of Timothy McVeigh on May 16 "for those who wish to see it."

I was surprised and also shocked by this announcement.

None of our church leaders spoke out about it until, a week later, Bishop Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, issued a strong statement on April 19 protesting the attorney general's decision.

It has made me wonder two things: Is the country returning to the days of public executions, and why don't our church leaders speak out publicly on these horrific happenings?

With the state our society is in at the moment, it is not a fantasy to think that within a matter of but a few short hours after that execution, some portion of the media will have obtained footage of the execution, and it will be out for all the world to see.

The president of Entertainment Network Inc. in Florida said on "CNN Talk Back Live" on April 19 that within hours of the execution, he would have it out over the Internet. This week, both ABC's "Nightline" and "CNN Talk Back Live" treated the world to the gruesome "Electric Chair Tapes," audiotapes made of 1986 executions in Georgia.

Yet none of our church -- or political -- leaders apart from Bishop Griswold thought fit to speak out.

On Good Friday, I conducted a three-hour meditation service. I read the words from St. Luke, Chapter 23, Verse 35: "The people stood by and the rulers jeered ... even the soldiers joined in the mockery." Those words have stayed with me ever since.

Crucifixions were commonplace in those days. Perhaps the rulers didn't normally attend, but when these events took place, people went to watch, jeer and snigger. It was a public entertainment, just as the burning of witches in colonial America and executions during the French Revolution used to be.

Have we allowed ourselves to become so hardened to life and horrors and suffering that we are becoming like those jeering bystanders who stood by and watched executions for entertainment and satisfaction? Is it in this direction we are allowing ourselves to be led?

Terrorist activity of any kind is wrong, and no one can condone bombing, whether it is in the United States, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Kenya, England or anywhere else. Nor should we condone, or even appear to condone, the return to public executions. Those days should be history, not present-day television material, because once a precedent has been set, there is no end to it.

Our church leaders as well as our political leaders have an obligation to speak out on these matters and not sit silent. So do we as individuals. If not, we will be like those who used to stand by crosses and guillotines in days past, joyfully watching the deaths of others, criminal or not.

Donor MacNeice is rector of Christ Memorial
Episcopal Church in Kilauea, Kauai, and vicar of St. Thomas
Episcopal Church in Hanalei, Kauai.


Chinatown festivities to honor Buddha's birth

A Chinese musical and cultural program and a food fair will accompany the Chinese Buddhist community's celebration of the birth of Buddha. The festivities will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. next Saturday and Sunday, May 12 and 13, at the Kekaulike Mall in Honolulu's Chinatown.

The ritual to mark the birth of the founder of Buddhism more than 2,500 years ago is the pouring of water over a statue of the Baby Buddha and the offering of flowers. The free event is sponsored by Buddha Light International of Hawaii.

Ceremony, other events to honor Father Damien

Thursday religious services and a lei-draping ceremony are planned to memorialize the life of Father Damien DeVeuster, who served Hansen's disease patients on Kalaupapa.

Catholic school children and members of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary will bring leis to the Damien statue at the state Capitol for a brief 9 a.m. ceremony.

The Rev. William Petrie, who has worked with leprosy patients in India for 25 years, will speak at the 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Masses Thursday at St. Patrick Church in Kaimuki.

The film "Molokai, the Story of Father Damien" will be shown in the church meeting room at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Damien died of leprosy in 1889 after working at the remote Molokai peninsula, where more than 8,000 victims of the disease died. He was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1995.

Kalihi Mormons offer orientation for public

The Kalihi Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will present an orientation on Mormon beliefs and practices in the next Open Table Pilgrimage series.

The gathering, at 3 p.m. May 13 at the church at 1723 Beckley St., will be open to the public.

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