Home » Posts tagged 'Arkansas'

Catholic leaders praise stays of executions for Arkansas death-row inmates

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Catholic leaders praised the federal and state rulings that granted stays of executions for a group of Arkansas death-row inmates during the week of April 17.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is pictured in a 2013 photo. Arkansas, which has not executed anyone in more than 12 years, plans to execute eight death-row inmates in a period of 10 days this April before one of the state's lethal injection drugs expires. Hutchinson in late February set the four execution dates for the eight men between April 17-27. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA)

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is pictured in a 2013 photo. Arkansas, which has not executed anyone in more than 12 years, plans to execute eight death-row inmates in a period of 10 days this April before one of the state’s lethal injection drugs expires. Hutchinson in late February set the four execution dates for the eight men between April 17-27. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA)

“After the darkness of Good Friday has come a great light,” Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network against the Death Penalty, said in an April 16 statement. She said the plan to execute these men in such a short period of time brought about “an extraordinary response from so many people calling for a culture of life and an end to this practice of retribution.”

A federal judge’s April 15 ruling stopped the state from executing six of the inmates with a preliminary injunction handed down in response to a lawsuit filed by the inmates, who claimed the executions were unconstitutional because of their rapid pace and the ineffectiveness of the lethal injection drug midazolam. They claimed the sedative drug doesn’t always work and causes those who are being executed to feel pain from the use of other two lethal injection drugs.

The previous day, an Arkansas judge, responding to a lawsuit from two pharmaceutical companies, issued a temporary restraining order on the state’s executions based on evidence the state may not have obtained midazolam properly.

The state and federal judges’ rulings are both under appeal by the state. A significant delay in these arguments could indefinitely halt these executions since the state’s supply of midazolam will run out at the end of the month and state officials have said they have no source to obtain a further supply of the sedative.

But even with the court-issued stays, the executions are still possible before the end of April if the cases are sent to the Supreme Court and it sides with the state of Arkansas in its appeal.

Arkansas officials originally scheduled eight executions from April 17-27. Two of the inmates were granted stays of execution outside of the federal judge’s April 15 decision.

These executions were announced months ago by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said they had to be done in quick succession to use the state’s final batch of the midazolam before it expired at the end of April.

Many people have demonstrated against the state’s plan to execute these man in such quick succession, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In an April 13 statement, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged the state’s governor to reconsider the scheduled executions and reduce the sentences to life imprisonment.

“May those in Arkansas who hold the lives of these individuals on death row in their hands be moved by God’s love, which is stronger than death, and abandon the current plans for execution,” he wrote.

The bishop said the timing for these executions “was not set by the demands of justice, but by the arbitrary politics of punishment,” referring to the state’s supply of the sedative used in executions. “And so, in a dark irony, a safeguard that was intended to protect people is now being used as a reason to hasten their deaths.”

After the rulings temporarily halting the executions were issued, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, thanked all of those who had “prayed and worked so hard to prevent these scheduled executions from taking place.”

“Let us continue to pray and work for the abolition of the death penalty in Arkansas and throughout the country,” he said in a statement. He also urged for prayers for “healing for the victims of the horrific crimes” and for the perpetrators of these crimes, saying: “The Lord never gives up on anyone and neither should we.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

Comments Off on Catholic leaders praise stays of executions for Arkansas death-row inmates

‘We need to look after each other,’ Syrian refugee says

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Omar al-Muqdad has seen both sides of the refugee crisis.

In 2004, he assisted Iraqi refugees in his home country of Syria. And then nearly a decade later, he escaped the civil war in his country by first going to Turkey and then finding a temporary home in 2012 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he was the only Syrian refugee in the state.

Syrian refugee children stand outside their school in Zahle, Lebanon, in the country's Bekaa Valley April 12. The international Catholic charity Caritas has been instrumental in helping Syrian refugees attend Lebanese public schools to continue their education. (CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)

Syrian refugee children stand outside their school in Zahle, Lebanon, in the country’s Bekaa Valley April 12. The international Catholic charity Caritas has been instrumental in helping Syrian refugees attend Lebanese public schools to continue their education. (CNS photo/Dale Gavlak)

“I thought I knew what it was like to be a refugee, then I became a refugee and I needed someone to help me,” he told Catholic News Service April 15.

He realizes there is no rule requiring people to help refugees, but he feels there is an underlying premise that they should.

“It’s a human responsibility. We need to look after each other. You also don’t know if (this situation) could happen to you or someone else,” said al-Muqdad who met with officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Migration and Refugee Services in mid-April to share his experiences.

Al-Muqdad, 36, was assisted by MRS, Catholic Charities of Arkansas, the Diocese of Little Rock and St. Joseph Parish in Fayetteville. They helped him find an apartment and get what he needed, including rides to places while getting established in the United States and working toward citizenship. Today he lives in Arlington, Virginia, and works as a journalist.

He has worked on documentaries about refugees. His current work is about his own experience called “Back to Arkansas.”

When asked about Fayetteville, a far cry from the ancient Syrian town of Bosra where he lived, al-Muqdad, only has good things to say. He says the small town was friendly and beautiful. He also was able to find good Syrian food, which was definitely a plus.

“I really miss that town. I was touched by the treatment I received which was the opposite of what I heard: that people in the South don’t like strangers.”

“People opened their homes for me and just wanted to help,” he said, adding, “I didn’t feel for a second that I was a stranger there.”

And that’s what has made it all the more difficult for al-Muqdad to understand how Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson could say last fall that Syrian refugees would not be welcome.

“What was even more shocking is to learn that I was the only Syrian refugee that was officially admitted and granted residency in that state,” he wrote in a column in December for The National newspaper.

He realizes many of the governors who spoke out against Syrian refugees did this for security concerns, which he said he understands, to a point.

“As a Syrian who, like many other Syrians, suffered from the lack of security, I am completely in favor of a security check on everyone who wants to enter the country,” he wrote. “But that doesn’t mean it is possible to generalize the threat as coming from all refugees, or to paint them all with a single brush, or to say to all of these desperate people: ‘You are all a threat and need to stay out.’”

He has also been disheartened by comments from political candidates about shunning refugees, but he has confidence Americans will do the right thing on the issue.

Al-Muqdad pointed out that terrorists and refugees are not one and the same and stressed that terrorists would have a hard time getting into the U.S. through the refugee path which is time consuming and involves many meetings. He said he was interviewed twice by U.N. officials and multiple times by U.S. immigration officials. If there are gaps in your story, you won’t be admitted, he added.

“It’s a really tough process, and it’s OK,” he said, but countries should not shut their doors out of fear, he added, calling this the “wrong approach to solve this issue.”

At the end of March, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments around the world to take in more Syrian refugees.

So far, the Obama administration’s goal of settling at least 10,000 Syrian refugees by Oct. 1 has not nearly been met. The U.S. Department of State reports that about 1,200 refugees have been resettled during the last six months. Overall, the U.S. has resettled about 3,100 Syrian refugees since 2011 when the civil war in Syria began. Turkey has the largest settlement of Syrian refugees followed by Lebanon and Jordan and then European countries.

During a March 30 conference in Geneva focused on refugees, Ban called the amount of people fleeing Syria “numbing.”

“But these are all individuals with tragic stories: Children who have lost their parents; Teenagers who are suddenly in charge of their families; Men and women, old and young, who have experienced terrible atrocities — some carry shrapnel in their bodies. All bear the mental scars of displacement,” he said in his remarks, posted on the UN website.

Al-Muqdad admits he has been frustrated with the American response to Syrian refugees, but he has also been heartened by “other voices” showing their support, including Catholic and Lutheran groups.

He says he is not a religious person and describes himself as “still investigating” his faith, but he is touched by what faith-based groups have done for him and other refugees.

Four years after his arrival here, Al-Muqdad who speaks Arabic, English and Italian, says it was easy to fit in and he has a lot of friends here from many nationalities.

That’s not to say he doesn’t long for his homeland. “I miss it so much, but it’s war there now and it’s breaking my heart,” he said.

While he waits for peace to return to Syria, he is focused on his new path.

“I have started to build a life here,” he said. “I’m an American now.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

Comments Off on ‘We need to look after each other,’ Syrian refugee says

Washington Letter: Religious freedom debates and laws have a roller coaster history

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — It started with hallucinogenic peyote and a couple of guys in Oregon who were fired after they used it in a religious ritual.

Over the course of 25 years, the U.S. debate over religious rights moved from there to the current social and political uproar about Indiana’’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and whether it would give legal cover to those who might discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Within hours of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act March 26, critics slammed the legislation as going further than the federal version of the same law does and said it would enable individuals and businesses to claim a religious right to discriminate in ways not foreseen in other versions. Highly publicized protests and boycotts of Indiana and Indiana-based businesses were launched. Read more »

Comments Off on Washington Letter: Religious freedom debates and laws have a roller coaster history
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.