Why Are You Supporting Drug Traffickers?

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Why Are You Supporting Drug Traffickers?

13 May 2015 Hits:11514

That’s just one of the many questions Christie and I have been asked over the last few years since getting to know Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, two of the Bali Nine.

It’s been quite a journey – a very difficult one at times – made often harder because we’ve had to answer the same questions several times.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind answering questions if it helps someone gain a better understanding. I’m not looking for everyone to agree with me, but I have been amazed at the amount of hatred poured out even from some quarters of the Christian church – you know, the people who are to “love their neighbour as themselves” – those people!

Firstly, let me make it clear that Christie and I were not looking for something else to do.  We were actually taking a few days in Bali to rest after a particularly busy and stressful time. While we were there we met up with some old friends.  During our time together they told us of the work they were doing inside Kerobokan Prison and would we like to join them for a morning.  Little did we know that meeting Andrew Chan on that morning would lead to all that has taken place since.

So, here are some of the common questions and themes we have been asked along with what I hope will be helpful answers.

 

They’re just drug traffickers. Why bother with them?

It’s true. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were part of the Bali Nine who attempted to bring over eight kilograms of heroin into Australia.  We “bothered” with them because we got to know them and love them.  We were amazed at their sorrow for what they’d done and for the way they were demonstrating that sorrow – not just by rehabilitating themselves, but also in working hard to help reform others.  We “bothered” with them because Jesus “bothered” with us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

God actually did not wait for you and me to get our act together, He didn’t wait for us to reform or rehabilitate – He demonstrated the full extent of His love for us while we were still sinners.

It’s amazing how some having received God’s forgiveness can then be so unforgiving towards others.  Jesus addressed this hypocrisy in the parable of the unmerciful servant (see Matthew 18:21-35).  I’ve had people say to me, “Those guys don’t deserve mercy!”  My response to them has been, “I couldn’t agree with you more!”  No one deserves mercy.  By its very definition it is something we DON’T deserve.  Mercy is “compassionate kindness shown toward an offender or an enemy.”

Someone wrote this comment on Facebook, “What sort of a church are you that think these druggies are heroes. They knew what the law was and they broke it. Not the first time they did it but at least it was their last. Get on with life.” 

The answer to that question is that Bayside Church is a church that is doing its best to show mercy, kindness, compassion and grace to all people – even people who make massive mistakes!

 

They knew the risks. They deserve what they got.

Yes, there are BIG signs at Bali airport warning travellers of the penalty for drug trafficking.  The Bali Nine probably did know the risks but they were young.  Did you make any mistakes when you were young?  I know I did!

Recent research into the teenage brain shows some very interesting outcomes.  Consider this quote from the online Health Encyclopedia, “It doesn’t matter how smart your teen is … good judgment isn’t something he or she can excel in, at least not yet.  The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until he or she is 25 years old or so.  In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdale. This is the emotional part.  In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing. That’s why when teens are under overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”

It’s fairly evident to me that Andrew, Myuran, Matthew Norman and the others weren’t thinking of the consequences.

 

What about the people who would have been hurt or killed by those drugs?  Aren’t you being soft on justice?

No, we’re not being soft on justice.  I’m glad every member of the Bali Nine were caught.  I wish all drug traffickers are caught and brought to justice.  I wish those who are behind the trafficking of drugs were caught and brought to justice too – not just the drug mules.  I used to use drugs and I know all about their harmful effects.  I lost some of my closest friends to drug overdoses.  As a pastor I have seen the devastating effects of drugs, not just on the users but also on their families and friends.

In regards to Andrew and Myuran, the request was that their death sentences be commuted to life sentences so they could continue their work of rehabilitating other prisoners.  Soft justice was never considered.  A life sentence in Kerobokan Prison is not soft justice.  If one thinks it is they should visit a prisoner there.

The eight kilograms of heroin didn’t make it into Australia, but many other drugs do.  Those who use drugs need to take responsibility for their habit and seek help to become free of addiction.  Blaming a drug supplier for your habit is like blaming a barman for your drinking problem.

 

You’re a hypocrite. Why are you just advocating for those two? What about everyone else on death row?

This has got to be my all-time favourite.  Apparently we are hypocrites because we only spoke up for Andrew & Myuran and not ALL the people facing the death penalty around the world.

While I personally advocate against capital punishment in all circumstances (mainly though Amnesty International), Christie and I got to know Andrew and Myuran personally.  It was because of our friendship with them that we advocated so strongly for them.  Having said that, the two guys have asked that their deaths not be in vain and that we would all continue to advocate against the death penalty to eventually see it abolished in every nation.

 

What about helping…. (Insert other people in need here)?

Why are you helping drug traffickers? What about … the poor, the asylum seekers, the homeless, the drug addicted, the mentally ill, aborted babies you name it.

One person – who doesn’t know me very well – called me a “one-issue guy.”  If they knew Christie, me and Bayside Church they would know that statement is completely untrue.  As a church community we are very engaged in helping the poor, the marginalised, the disadvantaged, the asylum seekers, the homeless, the orphans and widows.  We can’t solve all the world’s problems but we can make a difference.  Have a read of this article for some very good comments on this question:

http://m.dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/the-emotion-police-ready-to-silence-anyone-with-the-wrong-feelings/story-fnpug1jf-1227334908980

 

How do you know they are really rehabilitated?

Some have suggested they were just pretending to be reformed so as to get a lesser sentence.  Others have said, “They wouldn’t have changed if they weren’t caught.”  Of course no one knows what would have happened if Andrew and Myuran weren’t caught.  The fact is they were caught and during their 10 years in Kerobokan Prison they demonstrated by their words and actions that they were genuinely changed men.  Christie and me and hundreds of other people have witnessed this rehabilitation firsthand over many years.

A great example is the author of the hymn Amazing Grace.  John Newton was a slave trader – a trafficker of people.  He later became a Christian and a pastor.  There’s not a person on this planet that has met John Newton – he died in 1807.  How do we know that this man who was an infidel and engaged in immorality and people trafficking was genuinely reformed?  How do we know he wasn’t pretending?

 

Are you against the death penalty in all cases?

Yes I am.  I believe I have to be consistent in my belief, which has changed over the years.  I used to be very much for the death penalty but not any more.  There are many reasons for this that I will save for another blog.

Let me give you two reasons here.

Firstly, when Andrew & Myuran and the other guys were executed, a Filipino lady named Mary Jane Veloso was also going to be shot.  The Indonesian government was going to execute an innocent woman – if the guilty person had not come forward at the last minute Mary Jane would be dead now.  The death penalty always risks killing the innocent.

Secondly, the death penalty punishes the innocent family and friends of those executed. Looking into the eyes of Andrew and Myuran’s families was heartbreaking.  Seeing their grief and sadness over the loss of their loved ones was unbearable.  As I said earlier, I am not into soft justice, but I don’t believe that killing a person for their crime is just.

 

Aren’t you just doing this to promote your own ministry?

I could think of much easier ways of promoting my ministry if I ever got an inclination to do that.  One guy wrote this about us on Facebook, “The applause of man will be their only reward.”  I can honestly say that neither Christie nor I am interested in people’s applause.  This has actually been a very difficult and tiring journey with much opposition.  I do, however, appreciate our church community at Bayside Church, many other Christians (as well as lots of people who don’t share our faith) and the media who have stood strong to help Andrew and Myuran and to advocate for their lives to be spared.

 

Isn’t it time to move on?

Look into the eyes of the family and say that!

 

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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26 replies on “Why Are You Supporting Drug Traffickers?”

Anneli Kenyonsays:

Praise the Lord for your compassion and love, I serve at The Bay at Allan Bagg Ministries and share that love with those inmate’s, whether they are rapists, killers or drug traffickers. Thank you Ps R & C for standing up for the love of Jesus, I pray blessing and favor over you and your ministry

Megansays:

Beautifully answered. Another thought isn’t jail suppose to rehabilitate offenders, and isn’t this what happened. Just saying

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Yes it is Megan – where it’s possible to rehabilitate. If it isn’t then the person should remain separate from society as he or she is still a threat to it. That’s where our justice system appears to be lacking in Australia.

Cameron Bouchersays:

Thankyou Rob for sharing and really opening up your heart with this. I have said this before, that you highlighting your journey with these guys and their good work they had done in prison has helped me do some soul searching and have a change of heart towards them. I think he’s using it as a teaching moment for me personally to have more compassion. In some respects getting caught was the best thing that could have happened to them, however such an awful outcome.

Sherid Cartersays:

Rob & Christie. I applaud you as a sister in Christ…because you guys chose to do what Jesus told us to do…to have mercy, love & forgiveness to those lost & in prison.

This has been such a difficult journey! We have experienced the exact same comments & cruel bullying on the boys by Christians & it has been shocking & divisive.

We have just all be party to one of the most incredible Christian testimonies…in our modern era. I feel honoured to hv “known” & supported these brothers.

Their Christian testimony has inspired & affected so many of us. It has encouraged me in my walk with the Lord 2 go so much deeper. I trust God more & hv surrendered & know His Presence more intimately. All the glory & honour has been given to God. Praise His Name.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You guys are woven into so many of our hearts now. We are family.

Fiona robsonsays:

Amen Amen thank you

Jeniffersays:

Dear Pastor Rob N Christie , you have answered beautifully and well explained. We as Christians have to live with good examples for others. Everybody makes mistakes. We learn from it. Boys did not ask to return to Australia. They wanted to work and help their prison guys. Thank you very much for your time in reading and replying. God bless you both abountantly.

Adela Barisicsays:

Your comments all make good sense Pastor Rob, and show your precious heart of compassion, love, and understanding.
You and your wife Christie would have made such an amazing difference in the lives of
Andrew and Myuran, and had the wonderful privilege of nurturing and watering the joyful, big life change when they gave their hearts to the Lord, and surrendered to Jesus.
May the Lord keep using you with many others like Andrew and Myuran who so desperately need your hands of Mercy with which the Love of God can be felt.

Katie Newtonsays:

Thank you Rob for sharing this personal and emotional story. I have been swinging in my opinions personally all through the media coverage, based on my strong anti-drug stance, and the effect it has had on my children and grandchildren. However, one of my life mentors was a man who killed his fiancé in a fit of rage as a young man. I didn’t know this until I was 21, but I had decided I wanted to be like this man when I was 15. The reason??? Him and his wife worked tirelessly for the underpriveledged, disconnected youth and poor. The difference they made in the lives of people are strongly felt across this continent amongst the Aboriginal communities. If this man had not been given another chance and had been executed there are many people, particularly neglected children, who may not have ever experienced love. I thank God for his compassion, I thank God for the second chances we all get throughout our lives and I thank God for these two men who were also able to turn their lives around, receive the grace of God, experience His great love for them and help then were able to help others. Prayers are with you and Christine, but also with the family of these young men.

Rashmie Devarajah Wagawattesays:

Dear pastor,
I thank and praise God for his unfailing love..he came to set the captives free.and he is faithful in doing it through his chosen vessels!
I’m a involved in prison ministry in sri lanka.may God continue to use you mightily. .

Stephen Griffithsays:

Brilliant, forthright and revealing. Thank you so much Pastor Rob Buckingham. Those that have accused you falsely of the above, will be judged as they have judged.

Great work. Thanks for taking time to share with all 😉

Tanyasays:

Thankyou so much for sharing.
You, Christies and Baysides involvement with Andrew and Myuran has inspired and reignited my faith. Thankyou.

Theresa Moffattsays:

Great article Paster Rob,as jesus said “blessed are thoses who are persecuted for my names sake”.

Kathie Thomassays:

Thanks Ps Rob for explaining it so clearly. I’ll be bookmarking this page so I can share it with others. We have followed these events for the past few years and have felt pain and anguish over what has transpired and for others who clearly do not seem to have compassion or the ability to accept that we all make mistakes. Thank God that Andrew and Myuran had you and Ps Christie, and others, that could help them with their difficult journey.

Steve Bryarsays:

Thank you Rob for sharing these points. I find it amazing and refreshing that as Pastors and Church your ministry is about “Mercy” not judgement. I have so many character flaws that I wonder why God bother, but he did and while I was still knee deep in sin. Blessings.

Christine Mooresays:

i am so very proud of you Pastor Rob and your wife Christie. Thank you so much for all that you have done and I am so sorry you have had so much criticism. God must be so proud of you both as well. To me, you show what true Christianity is supposed to be; all that Jesus stood for. I have heard many Christian friends say terrible things which has broken my heart. Andrew and Myuran have rekindled my faith in God and changed my life forever. We were trying to save their lives but they saved probably thousands of us. I do not like churches, but I sure wish I lived near your church, I would be there in a flash. God bless you and thank you for standing strong in your beautiful convictions against so much opposition.

Christine Mooresays:

PS Can you get this brilliant article published in some newspapers?

Ruthsays:

Love this article! Love the work you guys are doing. So inspirational ❤️
Like many Australians I grew to love these two young men, from all I heard about them through the media. Andrew and Myuran’s courage was astounding, they were such humble and peaceful men under such harsh and tragic circumstances. Yes, as you say, they deserved to be caught and punished for their crimes but the death penalty is barbaric, outdated, only punishes those left behind and is open to abuse by those who hold the power.
I follow no religion but I was moved by their spirituality, their faith in something greater than themselves.
May they have found peace, love and new beginning

Losays:

Thank you so much for your beautiful service for Myu, thank you both so much for being with him til the end, thank you so much for believing in both men, thank you so much for continuing the fight against the death penalty.

Audreysays:

I am praying for the families who will continue to grieve indefinitely. They have been robbed of two beautiful men that deserved to live. I continue to pray for the families and those who sat with them on the eve of the execution. They must have been traumatised by the event and felt the loss. All concerned are very brave souls.

Josephine C. Vasquezsays:

Dear Pastor Rob,

This is my first time to read a blog from a Pastor who had been with Myu before his death. I stumbled on this blog because of my desperation to find out if Myu accepted Christ as Lord and Personal Saviour before dying.

I personally did not know Myu if not for Mary Jane Veloso, and that was exactly four days before the execution. You know, Mary Jane’s story was not reported to the media years before that is why I never knew about this until the last few days before execution.

When Myu and Andrew were shot I was so devastated. I did not know them, but my heart was pricked by so much pain, especially for Myu. But my thought was always” was he saved?’

To know today that you have witnessed to him about Christ, it means to me that Myu accepted Christ, and it gives me comfort.

If they are still alive today, I will go to Indonesia to visit them too. I would love to make friends with Myu, who seemed to be a person with a very good heart.

God bless you Pastor, as well as your church.

Josephine

Jane Fordsays:

I am so thankful for the love you and Christie have shown to Andrew and Myu and I feel sure that you were praying for and advocating for the others who were executed.
I am so grateful to God that he has used you both to comfort the grieving families. This must have taken a considerable toll on you both emotionally. You have shown true love, forgiveness, compassion and empathy all required of us as Christians. To love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and to love those whose paths we cross daily.
When my son died of a heroin ovedose 5 years ago, Bayside church showed compassion and love, many non christians came to Bayside for his funeral and experienced Gods love, we may never know the repercussions of that experience for them ( though I have certainly heard comments) but by Your faithfulness Rob in showing Gods love and compassion, i feel sure God is at work in many lives.
Please be encouraged that the work you and Christie have been part of will produce long lastting fruit.

Brontesays:

Thank you for your words. It astounds me that people need to be reassured by your explanation, despite their religion. Myuran and Andrew were murdered under the guise of a political stance. Even as a stranger I could see their hearts were true. But above all, who has right to kill another, even in warfare? These boys matured and their potential explored and flourished. Mercy was not shown. It is incomprehensible.

Juliesays:

I taught the parable of the Prodigal Son at Church recently and felt impressed to share how Andrew & Myuran each did as the Prodigal son did “He came to himself” Beautiful words!!
When his substance was gone, he was forced by physical suffering and degradation to repent. Had his substance held out longer, he would have sinned that much more. I shared how Andrew & Myuran were similarly forced by physical suffering and degradation to repent – jail in Indonesia, not enough money to pay for lesser sentences, placed on death row, facing scorn from fellow Australians, seeing the pain on their loved ones faces and missing family experiences etc. They came to themselves and were able to help others do the same –

When I used the story of Andrew & Myuran as a modern day analogy of the prodigal son I was shocked to the core when a couple spoke out against them with similar comments you mentioned above- what if the drugs killed your son how would you feel?, they knew what they were doing blah blah blah It was like they were being the older brother in the story and wouldn’t believe that Andrew & Myuran could change – I was nearly in tears knowing that for some it is so easy to condemn another human being to death especially when we’ve just been learning about the prodigal son.
They just did not get it – thankfully the other 20 or so in the class did ‘get it’ but I am amazed at how quick and how vocal people get as they refuse to accept another man’s repentance which really is between them & God anyway!

I feel sad that more people can’t find it in their hearts to discover the truths behind these men, their repentance, their reformation, their restitution, their service to others and their shocking deaths. It saddens me that fellow Christians, Aussies & human beings can be so hateful
“He was Lost and Is Found” Such a fitting lesson at a time like this At a time when so many people refuse to accept that people like Andrew & Myuran from Australia, Okwudili & Raheem from Nigeria for example had done what the Prodigal Son did and ‘came to themselves’. 8 men were executed by firing squad that consisted of 12-13 shooters assigned to each person – Tied to their own crosses, and were shot through their hearts – a reflector marked the spot…. The worth of souls is great in the sight of God – who are we to condemn these men for their past mistakes?

Emily Robertsonsays:

Andrew and Myuran needed you both, Thanks for being there for them.

rinsays:

so very proud of what you and christie did for Andrew and Myu. People who vomit verbal diarrhoea do it without thinking that there is no one on this planet who has’t made a mistake. We all make mistakes & so did the Bali 9. What I really hate is when these people say “What about the people who would have been hurt or killed by those drugs?”. Ok so imagine if they did bring the drugs to Aust………It’s not like they were going to foecefully feed it to people It’s like when people say “Guns kill People” —- No they don’t. People kill people not guns. If bullets started flying by itself then all weapons like knives would be kept locked coz that’s saying that whenever we are near knives —- it will stab us by itself!

Some lady said she lost her daughter to drugs. And her daughter was really intelligent & she wanted Andrew & Myu to die. I wana ask this lady – If your daughter was really intelligent, what was she doing using drugs? Andrew & Myu didn’t stuff it down her throat. Your daughter should have known between right and wrong. Don’t go around blaming them for your mistakes.

I’m not for drugs….BUT I’m just angry at why kill someone by keeping them in ail for 10 yrs, playing with them reg. their executions then killing them. That was cruel. No one is hailing them as heroes but common…..they were reformed. If a sportsman, movie star or rapper went to jail for drugs —- they ould come out as “Role Models”.

For eg. Shane Warne was suspended for some banned drug —- he was the vice captain of the team that represented the country. I have many more examples. And I would also like to say this —-If Andrew & Myu were not 2nd class citizens (diff backgrounds) —-I’m sure our government would have done more at least to save them from dying . No one deserves to die like that. Only God can be responsible for Birth & Death…….looks like Widodo wants to play God now.

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