Bishop reflects on death penalty for Boston Marathon Bomber

May 16, 2015

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As I prayerfully reflect on the jury’s decision Friday to sentence Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death, several thoughts have entered my mind. May I share them with you prayerfully?

First, no one can undo the pain and suffering of those who lost their loved ones, or of those who were injured. The atrocities of the bombing changed everyone forever. It will take a very long time to heal the wounds, scars and losses imposed on the country by this tragic event.

Second, we live in a world where death penalties are meted out for all kinds of wrongs. Whether for murder, adultery, criticizing the government, certain sexual acts, robbery, or other violations of a country's culture, we witness capital punishment taking place almost daily.

We should remember, however, that as followers of Christ we say the Lord's Prayer, which teaches forgiveness as one of its main points (Matthew 6: 9-15; Luke 11:1-4). We are challenged to forgive one another "seventy seven times" (Matthew 18:22), and we profess our belief in the One who demonstrated forgiveness as He was dying on the cross by saying, "Father, forgive them ... " (Luke 23:34).

Without criticizing the jury, what I am struggling with just now is the issue of capital punishment. Is the death penalty appropriate in this case – in any case – in this country? Should those found guilty of heinous crimes be allowed to genuinely repent?  Is it up to us in this Judeo-Christian culture to dispense a verdict that takes another's life?

Would it be beneficial if religious leaders of the world, those from all faith perspectives, were to gather and seek answers to spiritual questions such as how we should address the issue of crime in a world where some faith communities believe in an "eye for an eye," and others like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa have demonstrated forgiveness in the midst of deep pain and suffering?

I am reminded of Gandhi's statement, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." It is my hope and prayer that we do not allow ourselves to be blind to a hurting world. We need to search ourselves as we struggle with death-penalty verdicts all around the world.

We need to pray for healing for the victims, the families and all those who are hurt and suffering as a result of the Boston Marathon bombing; for the jurors, and also for Tsarnaev himself.

May God speak to us (including me) so that through our own faith understanding on capital punishment, filled by the power of God, the love of Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we may continue to be Christ's witnesses in the midst of controversy over this issue and others that tear the fabric of our world, and that we bring peace and hope to every situation.

Praying with you and reflecting with you, and always in Christ's love, 

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar