The Death Penalty in Virginia
The Virginia state legislature recently passed a bill that would require the use of the electric chair in state executions if lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained. The proper drugs are scarce after the European Union banned exporting them to the U.S. Executions across the country have since decreased. The governor of Virginia finds the use of the electric chair “reprehensible,” however, and believes lethal injection to be a more humane option. He is proposing an amendment that would allow U.S. pharmacies to hide their identity while selling lethal injection drugs to the state (fear of a public opinion backlash has dissuaded U.S. companies from manufacturing the drugs themselves, so this kind of privacy would make the drugs more accessible again). If his amendment is not accepted, the governor plans to veto the bill, putting executions in Virginia on hold indefinitely.
We pray for Virginia’s leader — may they discern the most faithful way forward as they consider death penalty procedures in their state. And for prisoners on death row, whose very lives are so affected by these choices, we pray — bring peace, comfort, and hope to them and their families. God, we pray for more restorative options to capital punishment in the United States.
Suicide Crisis in Canadian Indigenous Communities
In the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, eleven suicide attempts were recorded in one day, and twenty-eight attempts were recorded in March. The community has declared a state of emergency, having exhausted their resources, and is asking for additional health care expertise from the Ontario Health Minister. Unfortunately this suicide crisis is not unique and is shared by many First Nations across Canada. Government officials have suggested a focus on root causes: improving socioeconomic conditions and addressing the broken relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada, using tools like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
God, for the despair and hopelessness that plague First Nations communities in Canada, we cry out in lament. We pray for wisdom for leaders in positions of power in Canada to follow through on addressing the root causes of this suffering —may the rights and dignity of First Nations people become a standing priority for Canada, and may positive action translate into true and tangible change in this culture of oppression.
Last week we learned of the release of the “Panama Papers,” a set of confidential documents that reveal corruption and tax evasion by world leaders and other well-known people. The documents link several world leaders to offshore dealings, including the Prime Minister of Iceland (who was forced to step down), close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of China’s President Xi Jinping, and the father of David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain. This is a historic leak that reveals serious financial exploitation by influential leaders throughout the world.
As the gap between the rich and poor increases, we lament how much greed and corruption can infiltrate those in leadership. We pray for transparency and accountability as the list of culpable people grows in the wake these disclosures. Lord, we pray that the hearts of our leaders may be guarded against selfishness; may the common good be the primary goal for all who are called to public service.
On Sunday a group of about 500 refugees gathered at the border between Greece and Macedonia. After realizing they would not be let through, several attempted to climb the fence set up there. Macedonian police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades into the crowd. Hundreds were injured, including children; some were beaten by the police; fumes from the tear gas drifted into a nearby makeshift refugee camp, holding about 11,000 refugees, causing respiratory issues. Clashes have also broken out in makeshift camps in Greece, where conditions have been called “inhumane” by human rights groups. Tensions have risen in Greece since March 20, when European governments agreed to send migrants to Turkey instead of allowing them to continue on into Europe.
Lord, for the suffering of migrants we continue to lift our prayers. We thank you for the many Greek communities that have opened their doors in welcome; we thank you for the many who spend their days assisting refugees who are living through this nightmare. We pray for governments to come up with sustainable, durable, and humane solutions to the growing migrant crisis.