Forgiving Offenses: Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center
Cincinnati, OH | www.ijpccincinnati.org
“Pardoning offenses becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves.” – Pope Francis
For the staff at the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC), this belief in love and care for others is at the core of their work to promote a peaceful, nonviolent society. The organization was formed 30 years ago when five congregations of Catholic women religious, including the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, joined together to advocate for social justice. Today the organization is supported by 21 diverse faith communities which advance the mission of educating and advocating for peace and nonviolence, as well as challenging unjust local, national and global issues.
Some of the most serious social justice issues pertain to the racial disparity and unfairness with our nation’s use of the death penalty. Since 1973, more than 150 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence2. As long as the death penalty exists, the risk of executing an innocent person continues.
Opening Hearts and Minds
To build awareness of these issues, IJPC has collaborated with the Catholic Mobilizing Network on a national level, and Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE) at the state level, to form the Anti-Death Penalty program. All three of these organizations receive support from SC Ministry Foundation, which aligns with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati public statement against the death penalty.
As the program manager for the Anti-Death Penalty initiative at IJPC, Sister Andrea Koverman, SC, has studied the impact on the family members of death row inmates. “It struck me that often the injustices that happen in our society are largely due to the fact that we dehumanize each other,” shared Sister Andrea. “Putting a human face on these people, these families… and focusing on the interventions needed to prevent people from resorting to violence… that’s part of what we try to do through IJPC.”
Promoting Policy Reform
Last spring IJPC coordinated a Cincinnati cohort of advocates to participate in the Death Penalty Lobby Day at the Ohio Statehouse, organized by OTSE. Family members of death row inmates and exonerees joined with the group to encourage legislators to improve equity and fairness in the criminal justice system.
To date, two legislators have responded favorably that they will consider some of the reforms on the docket. While the public debate of the issues continues, the staff at IJPC persist in bringing hope to those facing death row and their families, and in fostering understanding among all citizens – to remind all of God’s mercy and forgiveness.