Saturday, September 27, 2003

Faith matters: Families fight death penalty

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

On May 14, 1985, Bill Pelke's grandmother was brutally murdered by four teen-age girls. One of the girls, 15, was sentenced to die, and at the time Pelke was satisfied with the sentence.

But about a year and a half later, he began working to have the girl's death sentence overturned.

"I just knew my grandmother would have had compassion for the girl and her family," he said. "I knew she'd have wanted one of us (her family) to have compassion, and I felt like that fell on my shoulders."

In 1989, the girl's sentence was commuted, and Pelke has been working to have the death penalty abolished ever since, starting his own organization, Journey of Hope. Sunday, the group, made up of victims' families against the death penalty, death row survivors and other anti-death penalty activists, will kick off their 17-day, statewide journey in Ohio in Cincinnati.

Pelke and Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, will speak at the benefit concert at St. John's Catholic Church, 9080 Cincinnati-Dayton Road, West Chester, at 3 p.m.

While in town for more than 25 events, speakers from Journey of Hope will speak to high school and college students, address congregations Sunday and speak to Tristate Catholic religious orders.

There are also several public events:

 A tree planting in honor of victims of violence and Robert Buell and John Byrd, both executed by the state, at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Anthony Shrine, 5000 Colerain Ave.m A talk at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, 103 William Howard Taft, Monday at 7 p.m.m A panel at Xavier University in Kelly Auditorium, Alter Hall, at 7:30 p.m. Monday.m A talk at New Mission Missionary Baptist Church, 4809 Ravenna St., Madisonville, at 7 p.m. Monday.

Eunice Timoney Ravenna, Cincinnati's local coordinator of events and a staff member at the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, said the events are intended to be educational.

"My hope is that people are really able to put a face on victims' families and hear their stories, not just the facts, statistics and theories," Ravenna said.

For more information about Journey of Hope and a complete schedule of events, visit .

Local mosque on PBS

The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester will be featured in a documentary on PBS, Channel 48, WCET, at 3 p.m. Sunday. The 40-minute program, Visit to a Mosque in America features a tour of the mosque and interviews with its members about key issues in Islam and America.

To submit religion news, e-mail or send a fax to 755-4150.

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