Just Mercy

"Hope is what allows us to stand up when they say: SIT DOWN", says Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard-educated lawyer who leaves behind the prospects of a lucrative career and instead moves to Alabama to partner with local activist Eva Ansley (Brie Larson) to establish the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization dedicated to serving the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Bryan would go to save the lives of numerous inmates on death row.

We all need hope when we are at our lowest moments and darkest days, the days we have nothing left to live for. It's what keeps us alive and running. Hope puts out the flames of failure and ignites ideas. 'Just Mercy' is a film based on a true story, of a man who was ready to sacrifice his life in order to fight for truth and justice against all odds. Coloured people were mistreated and discriminated against since time immemorial. They were incarcerated for no fault of theirs, just because they 'looked like they murdered someone!' When Bryan moves to Alabama from his comfortable home, he is mistreated like all the coloured men there too. He is made to strip and is caught by the cops for no reason. These situations only fuel him with an unfailing determination to free innocent men from an unjustly imposed death penalty.

The film shocks and surprises as one sees the various extremes of human behaviour – death and corruption, hope and determination. As human beings, we have an unconscious understanding of right and wrong. Bryan follows the right path, even though it is filled with pain and obstacles. That is what makes him different from other lawyers - he does not seek money, rather he wants the world to change. With his humility and grace, he softens the hearts of many people and causes them to think about a better world, a more just world.

In the film, he takes up the case of death-row prisoner Johnny D (Jamie Foxx). Johnny is convicted for murdering an 18 year old girl, a crime that he DID NOT commit and Bryan is determined to fight for a re-trial. Johnny's family have evidence that he was with them the day of the murder but the court refuses to believe them and chooses to believe a single witness’ false testimony. Here the movie serves to educate audiences on the perils of capital punishment, and especially when it is applied in a dubious manner. The Church has always opposed capital punishment and asks for its abolition worldwide.

Everyone surely deserves mercy, even if they committed a crime or even if they didn't. The Bible says "Therefore be merciful, as your Father also is merciful." (Luke 6:36). Mercy goes beyond justice and goes hand in hand with forgiveness, because if you refuse to forgive someone, how then will you show them even an ounce of mercy? That is why we say our God is a forgiving God. He overlooks all our sins, big and small, so we must show mercy towards each other too. Like Bryan fights for Johnny D and so many others like him because he believes in the TRUTH. He believes that he can singlehandedly bring about a revolution. His determination and hard work were so strong and so consistent, that he was bound to succeed in his venture.

The film will make us think of the many undertrials languishing in our prisons, many of whom are innocent but remain incarcerated due to poverty and help. Catholic Prison Ministry reaches out to those who are in prison, helps them sustain hope, and assists them to pursue legal redressal.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Mt 25: 35-36)

Eden Fernandes