The head of the Catholic church and the Sovereign of Vatican City State, Pope Francis, is going to deliver messages to Japan. (Image via La Croix International)

Japanese activists hope Pope Francis to sway the death penalty in Japan

This weekend, Pope Francis is going to visit Japan. Initially, the Pope is going to deliver a denuclearization message in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and meet the “Hidden Christian” groups in Japan. Nonetheless, Japanese human rights activists also have something to say to the Pope.

Quoting Pope Francis’ statement in 2018 against the death penalty that is not Christian nor is it humane, the human rights activists hope Pope Francis can say a word or two that will sway the Japanese major opinion about the death penalty. About 80 percent of the Japanese people supported the death penalty. The Vatican itself declared the death penalty is inadmissible for any circumstances.

When visiting Japan, Pope Francis may meet one of the Christians in Japan, waiting for his retrial, Iwao Hakamada (83). Baptized in prison and suffering from dementia, Hakamada was condemned to death; now, he has been serving 48-year imprisonment, mostly in the death row.

However, new DNA evidence was found and his capital punishment was stalled for retrial.

Japanese human rights activists regret that most Japanese people don’t see the death penalty as a human rights issue, and they hope that a message from Pope Francis, as a respected religious leader in the world, will move their hearts.

Japan, as a member of the Group of Seven (G-7), and the United States (U.S) are the only developed countries that still allow the death penalty to deter crimes.

Currently, around 120 prisoners are lining up in the death row and two were executed in 2019. For years, the hanging has been a capital punishment for the condemned. The Japanese government did not tell the venue and even whether the punishment has been carried out or not.

In 2018, Japan executed 15 prisoners, the highest rate in a decade, and 13 of them are from Aum Shinrikyo sects that carried out a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.