Yesterday, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were taken from Kerobokan gaol in Bali and escorted under (unnecessarily heavy) armed guard to the island of Nusakambangan where they will be executed.
So now they sit. And wait.
Chan and Sukumaran (then 21 and 23) were part of the Bali Nine, nine young Australian drug mules, caught in 2005, charged and convicted in 2006 for attempting to take drugs from Indonesia to Australia. The other seven are serving prison sentences ranging from 20 years to life. This duo scored the death penalty. There is no question that all nine were guilty. There is no question that they should be punished accordingly. But…
During their 10 years in Kerobokan, Chan and Sukumaran have turned their lives around. The cynical might argue that this was a ploy to attract clemency, but everyone who has met these young men – including the Prison Governor who appeared before a hearing to plead for their lives – swears that their rehabilitation is genuine.
Furthermore, both men have committed those ten years to supporting and guiding their fellow inmates towards a similar goal. Andrew Chan has been ordained as a pastor. He leads prison church services for English speakers, holds courses, takes classes and offers spiritual support. Myuran Sukumaran teaches English, computer, graphic design and philosophy, and has completed an Associate Degree in Fine Arts from Curtin University.
Other prisoners are devastated that they will lose these men, who offered not only hope, inspiration and example, but practical steps to rehabilitation and a better life after prison. If their sentences were commuted to Life, hundreds more would leave Kerobokan prison in the next fifty years with some prospect of a productive future.
But now they sit in cells and wait to be shot, not knowing which night the order will come: which night they will taken out, blindfolded, and lined up in front of twelve soldiers whose job it is to kill them.
Imagine if it were you. Would you have it in you to be strong? To remain sane? To endure every moment of every hour of an unknown number of days, waiting to cease to be? To know that every endless present moment is meaningless, because you have no future? Could you stand that ultimate, impenetrable loneliness?
I know many people consider Chan and Sukumaran deserve to suffer because of the suffering drugs cause. I understand their reasoning.
But think about this.
Two young men committed an act with careless disregard for the suffering it would cause.
In return, we are committing an act with premeditated calculation of the suffering it will cause, and in many cases, with the added element of vengeful enjoyment. In doing so, we are multiplying the sum of our collective inhumanity tenfold: infecting ourselves with the same disregard for suffering by embracing the behaviour we claim to deplore.
And adding an extra meaning to Donne’s well-known lines:
… send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.