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Over 300 Cities Worldwide to Rally Against Death Penalty

More than 300 cities, including Dallas and Austin from the U.S. state of Texas, will be taking part next week in an initiative against the death penalty called "Cities for Life, Cities against the Death Penalty". The Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio in Rome, organizer of the initiative, says it will be the largest ever mobilization against capital punishment.

The Cities for Life, Cities against the Death Penalty is an initiative staged every year by the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio in Rome on November 30. This year, the fourth edition, there will be 320 cities in the world taking part, including 30 national capitals.

For the event, many of the cities will offer their main squares and logos dressed in a special way, or light up their symbolic monuments like the Coliseum in Rome, the obelisk in Buenos Aires.

The spokesman of the Community of Sant'Egidio, Mario Marazziti, says special events and shows will bring together city administrators, ordinary people and students.

"Whoever wants to be there will try to think of how it is possible now to have a higher level of justice, justice without revenge and a restorative justice than never denies life," he said.

Mr. Marazziti says the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams, a double homicide convict who has become an ardent anti-gang activist on death row, is set for December 13 in California. In addition the 1,000th execution in the history of the United States is expected in Virginia around November 30.

The worldwide trend, he says, is against imposing capital punishment.

"We have 115 countries that have abolished the death penalty, we have about 101 countries that are either active retentionists or passive retentionists, that are de facto abolitionists but they still have the death penalty," he said. "But just 25-30 years ago we had the contrary, we had 60 countries that had abolished the death penalty."

He says he is convinced the death penalty will disappear one day, as did slavery in the past.

The United States, China, India, Japan and many Arab countries are among those that impose and carry out capital punishment.

Special focus is being placed this year on Africa, which has rapidly moved from being one of the most conservative continents to the one where changes are occurring fastest.

Mr. Marazziti says that Africa, racked by AIDS, civil conflicts and poverty, is moving toward abolishing the death penalty.

"We had just one country that had abolished the death penalty in 1981, we have now 13 countries and we have 20 de facto abolitionist countries," he said.

The latest country to abolish the death penalty in Africa is Senegal.

The Catholic community of Sant'Egidio has invited 13 justice ministers of African countries for an international conference to be held November 28 in Rome in the hope they will spread the abolitionist message throughout the continent.