...I think nearly everyone who attended this DNC interfaith gathering would agree that it was Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun and the well-known author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, who really preached. Her assigned topic was "Our Sacred Responsibility to Our Nation" and the Sister didn't waste time on interfaith niceties. Instead, she asked, "What do we see by the dawn's early light?" We see the death penalty, she said, applied in a racist, classist fashion to those who are the most vulnerable. And it doesn't make us any safer.
Sister Helen didn't really shout, but you could have heard a pin drop in the large theater when she leaned over the podium and said that what the death penalty reveals about the soul of America is that we have come to believe that violence can solve all our problems. Hence we torture, we make war and we steadily become less safe.
If we actually taught peace instead of war, she argued, and chose negotiation over bombing, and quit executing people in prison "death houses," then, "When we go to China and lecture them about human rights, we could hold our heads up." She was interrupted at that point and several other times in her address by sustained applause.
When she finished, she received a standing ovation that went on and on. As the clapping died down, the middle aged white man in the plaid shirt and string tie sitting next to me said quietly, almost to himself, "That's what I came to hear."
Please follow the link to read the overwelming speach "OUR SACRED RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR NATION" by Sister Helen
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts
so that we may love as You love,
even those among us
who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death row and kill the killers
in the name of justice, in the name of peace.
Jesus, our brother,
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did not let hatred overcome you
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduring love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God,
You strengthen us in the struggle for justice,
Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
so that violence will be no more.