Was the Death Sentence Just?
What is justice?
A system of justice should always aim to right wrongs. Good laws should be fairly implemented. Crime needs to be impartially judged, not for the sake of revenge, but to stop the abhorrent behaviour from further harming society. Punishment is one aspect of preventing crime. I would offer that a more important aspect is that of rehabilitation. In the Kingdom of God, no sinner is beyond the reach of the Almighty.
On that basis, I would like to make a few comments regarding the execution of my brothers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. There is no doubt that what they did was very wrong. It needed to be punished. Others needed to be deterred. Punishment is effective when it stops the behaviour. Ten years in a Balinese prison with no assurance of ever being released has been effective. Beyond this point is excessive.
Indonesia is a sovereign state and as such creates its own laws and its own legal system. That is how it should be. A very significant problem occurs though when a combination of corruption and politics enter a legal system. As I understand it, bribes heavily influence the judicial system in Indonesia and if the perpetrators had been prepared to pay a significant enough bribe early on, their sentence may have been far less harsh. Additionally, the President, Joko Widodo, backed himself into a corner during his election campaign, sprouting a hard line against those on death row and a strong support for the death penalty. The world view of Islam sees vengeance through death as normal and healthy. This is in strong contrast to the Christian world view where Christ modelled mercy and forgiveness (Matthew 5:7, John 8:1-11) and where we are instructed in Romans 12 not to take revenge, because it belongs to God. The President, with his faulty world view, reportedly didn’t consider pleas for clemency or even give any consideration as to what the most just outcome would be.
Compare this situation to the Bali Bombers which killed 202 people, 88 of which were Australians, and injured a further 209. The three ringleaders were executed and the fourth was killed in a shoot out against Indonesian Police. Well over 100 arrests were made and varying sentences and punishments were attributed to each according the the degree of their complicity. The comparison? When the four ringleaders were killed, they died with unrepentant hearts having made no positive contribution to society. And in my mind, this is the basic problem with execution.
When a legal system takes murderous revenge on a criminal, it puts itself above God. It robs that soul of the time given by God as He pursues and calls. The flip side of that is that nothing catches God by surprise.
Amidst all this, the Kingdom of God advances. Large numbers of Indonesians convert to Christianity every day. There are already far more Christians in Indonesia than there are people in Australia. Already, we are seeing change in the political systems. It’s only a matter of time before the false god of Islam is overtaken.
We are grateful that Andrew and Myuran accepted Christ’s righteousness very early into their sentence and God has given them a decade of great fruitfulness. Now, they have experienced God’s justice. When he accept His free gift of salvation, He justifies us – as if we had never sinned.
The pleas for clemency continued from family, Australian politicians and lawyers and others until the last moment. The meaning of clemency is mercy.
Which of us does not need mercy?
Ever changing; Thy Kingdom come