Peace Scientists work for peace

Abolish the death penalty

The pastor and the painter. SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2015 v9n1 p0509

New Jersey got rid of the death penalty in 2007 when we had a progressive governor who also installed solar panels all over the state and started us onto the road to responsible use of resources. He was defeated by Governor Chris Christie whose most notable achievement has been to get his closest friends and aides indicted on charges they blocked lanes on the George Washington Bridge, the northernmost bridge into New York City and the busiest bridge in the world. We are so fortunate the death penalty was already gone; Governor Christie has shown no interest in the rights of humans to live out their lives.

New York State still has the death penalty; its governor managed to get it introduced in 1995 after 2 decades of not having it. However, they have not used it since 1963, so I do not understand why they have not officially removed it. What are they waiting for? With its new Democratic governor, Governor Wolf, Pennsylvania has an official moratorium on the death penalty. However, only 3 times has the sentence been carried out since the 1976 Supreme Court rule that it is constitutional: all 3 executed were men, white, waived appeals and stated they wanted to die. Sister Helen Prejean speaks at Witness to Innocence click here.

So in the North East United States of America, the death penalty is not a hot button issue, except for some very focused folks in the anti-death penalty movement, including a good friend in Amnesty International who has abolition of the death penalty his main volunteer work click here.

I have had little sleep the past week because collectively, international outrage was not big enough or loud enough to prevent the cold-blooded judicial murder of 2 good Australians whose lives since incarceration were purpose-filled, loving, useful, even downright spectacular.

Why could we not stop Indonesian police from chaining to metal crosses Pastor Andrew Chan and artist Myuran Sukumaran, plus a Ghanaian, a Brazilian and 4 Nigerians, and gunning them down. On Apr 28, 2015, 8 marched together from the death cells to their field of execution singing loudly Amazing Grace, refused blindfolds, and managed to get through 2 verses of "Bless the Lord, oh my soul" before the bullets aimed at the targets pinned over their hearts met their marks.

I watched the funeral of Pastor Andrew Chan live through The highlight was definitely the eulogy from his widow, whom he married 3 days before his soul was so violently removed from his body. His widow,
Febyanti Herewila
Febyanti Herewila
Febyanti Herewila-Chan, remember her name, you will hear from her again, is Indonesian, a pastor, and a Javanese princess, who met Pastor Chan in prison 4 years previously when she was visiting prisoners as part of her ministry. She told us that he wrote to her every day, and accepted that his life was ending, but that his message was eternal.

So what did he do that got him arrested in Indonesia in 2004 and in front of a firing squad in 2015? He and Myu were accused of being the masterminds, the kingpins, of a smuggling ring of 9 people who traveled to Bali in order to travel out of Indonesia to Australia with, between them, 18 lb of heroin strapped to their bodies. Pastor Chan was not found with any drugs on him. Was it true? I don't know, and by this time, that does not really matter. Pastor Chan admitted he did stupid things when he was young and that every day was spent trying to make sure others led purpose-filled lives.

From "Friends of Myuran Sukumaran" Facebook post from April 14, 2015: "So stunning to see the Painting Workshop (Benker) in Kerobokan Prison that Myuran started is continuing strong. The photos are from Gateway College Auction which took place with prison staff and prisoners. Funds raised at this auction will continue the work Myu and Andrew started with painting classes, computer classes, sewing classes and most importantly assist with prisoner rehabilitation." I watched Myu's funeral too: he was a very different man than Andrew. They each had a brother and a sister, they each were born leaders, they each made magic out of dust, and excelled in their abilities to inspire and be loved.

Andrew Chan, the pastor who married a princess. Myuran Sukumaran, the painter with the smiling eyes.

Asking that all make the effort to say a kind word to mothers who have lost children, especially on Mother's Day click here
Witness to Innocence. The death penalty diminishes us all, because it is arbitrary and makes us all murderers click here
The families of the pastor and the painter tried to have their death sentence removed since 2006, when it was originally imposed. For 9 years they tried in courts, appealed to Australian and Indonesian premiers. The prison governor spoke out to save their lives, I read reports of the prison guards weeping as the condemned said their final farewells to family.

The deciding factor was the election of an execution-happy president in October 2014. In January 2015 the mass executions started, and after the 8 were gunned down in April, more are planned to follow. Faced with widespread poverty, ease with which drugs are obtained in markets, inside prisons, security systems that are broken, the president has started a campaign to kill prisoners.

The 8 men (the only woman was reprieved temporarily 2 hours before execution) were judicially murdered because they did not ignite public outrage, they did not galvanize. I did not see thousands of protesters camping outside the Indonesian Embassy, demanding these men be allowed to live. I did not see massive social media campaigns. Why? I do not know, but I can make some guesses.

First, drug use, particularly heroin use, is killing young people everywhere. I was told that in Scotland and Ireland, heroin is less expensive than Guinness. They were accused of being involved in moving heroin into Australia. Whether or not they were involved, I do not know, but the convictions of being involved are enough to make many Australians extremely angry. In the past year, the younger daughter of a former New South Wales premier was arrested, accused of murder over a heroin deal. Heroin cuts to the heart of Australia.

Second, both Andrew and Myu were born outside Australia, and were, along with their families, immigrants. Immigrants are not welcomed in Australia, and never were. Even my own brother, born in New Zealand, told me that Poms are twats. Pom is a slang word for anyone British, which I clearly am, as is he. I have previously written about general contempt for immigrants in every country that I know click here.

Third, Andrew and Myu were both not white, and their immigration was part of the trend that has turned Sydney into an Asian city. Australia has also a long history of not welcoming Asians, and of not being civil to non-whites, even as many Australian men marry young Asian Chinese women.

Fourth, outrage at the brutality of death sentences is not universal, even in Australia where it was abolished after the last man was hanged in 1966. We discussed the horror and barbarity of the death penalty in class in Sydney Girls High School, the fact that giving our government the right to end life is beyond the powers we want the government to have. The fact that when someone is judicially murdered on behalf of my government, I become a murderer. Nearly 50 years after the last judicial murder, likely these conversations are no longer taking place.

Personally, I did not do everything I could to stop the executions. I did not understand the dynamics, I saw Australia's deputy prime minister talk about offering money, prisoner exchange, anything, to stop the executions, and believed they would be stopped. I let them down, their families down, everyone down. And I am grieving because of that. Because I know that when I make a fuss, and others make a fuss, we can stop murder. Because we have. We were able to get 20 innocent men released from prison in South Africa click here.

Were Andrew and Myu innocent of the crimes they were convicted for? I do not know.
I do know the purpose of punishment is to stop a crime happening again. The possibility of Andrew and Myu being repeat offenders was zero. They were totally and completely rehabilitated. And could easily have spent the rest of their lives in service to other prisoners, in service to Indonesia.

Indonesia, you blew it. Indonesia click here.

Rest in piece Pastor. Rest in piece Painter. Never stop fighting for life Princess Febyanti Herewila-Chan. Remember Andrew Chan. Remember Myuran Sukumaran. Always.