By Penny Mulvey
We have all become voyeurs to the grief of the families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and the six other people who were executed overnight in Indonesia. Our insatiable desire for information led to an appalling press of media and police, which the Herald Sun captured in today’s paper with an ironic caption: “Brintha Sukumaran has to be carried after breaking down on arrival at Nusakambangan port – where the families endured yet another police and media crush – to visit her brother for the last time.”
I feel a deep sadness for the deaths of these two young men, whom I have come to know from a distance, via these media stories – from interviews with their lawyers, their family, their fellow inmates and their own mouths.
I feel anger that politics and power seem to be the dominant reasons behind their deaths.
Redemption has been a much used word in relation to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. As a Christian, the message of redemption is at the very centre of my faith. The good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus is that all people can be redeemed through Christ who died for all. All human beings do bad things, but we also have the potential to do supremely sacrificial deeds, as witnessed at Gallipoli one hundred years ago and at Nepal at the weekend, and indeed on a prison island in Indonesia.
Andrew and Myu were changed men. They had sought forgiveness for their drug smuggling, they had taken on leadership roles within the prison and they were willing to spend the rest of their lives in this same Indonesian prison. They wanted to live.
Their families wanted them to live. The prison governor wanted them to live. Our government wanted them to live. Many many Australians wanted them to live. I wanted them to live.
What about the other six? Were they redeemed? Were they victims of a corrupt system? Were their lives also worth saving? Clearly, as Australians, we focus on our own. And many individuals – lawyers, artists, ministers of religion, advocates – have for the last 10 years quietly worked behind the scenes fighting for the freedom of these two men. I am grateful for their extraordinary commitment, their sacrificial service.
The death penalty is barbaric. The descriptions captured in detail in the media are chilling. Many countries still impose the death penalty. All eight individuals executed overnight are precious in the sight of God. Our prime minister has said the government will put pressure on countries in our region to remove the death penalty from their statutes. Let us urge our politicians to up the ante. What about our good friend, the United States?
Justice is essential. People who commit crimes deserve to be imprisoned. However, mercy is a peculiarly human quality. Let us be merciful as we consider what value we place on ‘the other’. Whether redeemed or not, no person ought to be executed, gassed or electrocuted. There are always other options.
Image by Garth Jones.