One year on: the legacy of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

NEWS | Tess Holgate
Friday 29 April 2016

Australian Pastor Christie Buckingham was there when Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (convicted members of the Bali 9 drug smugglers) were executed on April 29, 2015. She spoke to Eternity about the legacy of Andrew and Myuran, and how she’s feeling as she looks back on that day.

A year on from the executions of Andrew and Myuran, how are you feeling?

It’s a very surreal feeling. The loss and the absolute waste of two young boys lives is terribly distressing for everybody involved. Whilst we know that they are in a better place, we miss them.

How do you remember them?

Rob and Christie Buckingham. Christie was Myuran Sukumaran's spiritual director, and was with him until the end of his life.

Rob and Christie Buckingham. Christie was Myuran Sukumaran’s spiritual director, and was with him until the end of his life.

My main feeling about them is the extraordinary gift of courage, grace, forgiveness, strength, and dignity; they lived with those values and they died with those values.

Obviously there’s a natural sadness. I lost friends. People lost their brother, their husband, their sons, and their nephews. So there is that sadness but overarching that sadness is this great call to live with the same kind of strength and dignity and courage that they died with.

You were with them until almost the very end. What were Andrew and Myuran like?

Andrew was the larrikin, and he was always chirpy and always kind and thoughtful. He would always want to hear how you were no matter how he was feeling.

Myu was a very deep thinker and in the early days he and I related mainly on the projects that they were doing and a little bit on the art.

They were very different men.

You were Myuran’s spiritual director. Can you tell me about your relationship with Myuran?

What encouraged me about Myu is that as a young boy Myu went to Sunday school and he was called by God. Whilst he did leave his faith for a season he certainly knew how to reach our to God in his hour of need, and of course Andrew was instrumental in that as well, and the others around him as well.

I played a very small part really. My role on the evening was made easy – if there is such a word for such an occasion – because I felt the prayer of the world carried me, I felt the love of God in an extraordinary way. I felt a place of horror become a holy place, and a place of slaughter a sacred place.

When Myu got the 72 hours notice he said to me, “Christie I want to do this really well,” and I told him the Bible said we enter [God’s] courts with thanksgiving and we enter [God’s] gates with praise.

And so when I led Myu out of his cell, I sang with him Amazing Grace. They sang several other hymns throughout the night, and then the very last hymn that they sang before they were shot was Matt Redman’s song Bless the Lord.

How was it that you came to be there for the executions?

Myu asked me to be his spiritual director. They’re allowed to have a pastor with them right up to the end. We were allowed to be with them in the last 3 minutes [of their lives].

I kept on saying to myself that if this was my child I would want someone to be there with them, and so as a mother that superseded any thought that I had for myself.

You knew Andrew and Myuran since 2012. In that time what did they teach you?

I think the biggest thing both boys taught me is the power of hope.

Even with Andrews hashtag #keephopealive, I said to him that it might not look good if they took him and executed him, and he said that we needed to keep hope alive for other people facing death row, we needed to believe that even if I [Andrew] die, it’s not in vain.

That’s the kind of courage the boys had. And that’s the way they looked at things.

I would often say to Myu: you’ve got to live believing for the best but preparing or the worst. And he did that, and he did it with great valour and strength, and I am so proud of him, so so proud of him.

I just only hope that one day when my time comes that I die singing the praises of God, forgiving the people that are about to do something bad to me, if that was the case, and calling down blessing on the nation that had shown no mercy to me at all, and holding goodness and kindness for those around me.

What do you think is their legacy?

In the last 12 months we have brought he topic of second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation to the dinner table of every Australian household. And not only to the Australians, but globally.

None of us really realise the consequences of what we do. We live under this enormous grace of God and we need to live as people of second chances, we need to be people of restorative justice not retributive justice, and we need to think about the fact that forgiveness is more powerful than hate.

How do you think they would they like to be remembered?

Andrew would want to be remembered as the pastor that he was inside the prison. And Myu as the artist.

They certainly may have gone in there as criminals, but they didn’t come out as criminals. They came out as completely changed, restored and rehabilitated men. And they showed that it could be done, showed that it could be done on display 24-7 inside the conditions of an Indonesian prison.

If they were able to do that and change their lives and the lives of those around them, then surely we can do the same thing. Myu always said: “everyone deserves a second chance, or why would they have an incentive to change?”

They became aware that this was much bigger than them, that this was a fight against the death penalty. They would want to be known as people who stood up against the death penalty: not because they didn’t want punishment, but because the death penalty in and of itself is an absolute violation of humans rights, and two wrongs never make a right.

God requires justice and mercy, and we need to search our hearts and find out if we live out of that place of second chances, both for ourselves, and for other people.

*Christie Buckingham, together with her husband Rob, pastors Bayside Church in Melbourne.

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