Faith on death row: Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

Rob and Christie Buckingham first met Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran when some friends who live and worship in Bali invited them to come to Kerobokan prison to visit some inmates while they were on holiday.

Rob and Christie took the invitation, not expecting to have their lives changed by what they saw. But after meeting Andrew and Myuran and seeing how they’d been rehabilitated, their faith, and what they were contributing to the prison, the Buckinghams couldn’t turn their backs.

The connection between the Buckinghams and the guys inside Kerobokan runs deep. For more than three years now, the pair have regularly travelled to Kerobokan prison to visit Andrew and Myuran, while Bayside Church, a non-denominational, pentecostal-style church in Melbourne where Rob and Christie are pastors has contributed hygiene packs and food to the prisoners, and helped Andrew become an accredited counsellor and study a degree through Harvest Bible College.

In mid-January, Rob happened to be visiting the prison when Myuran received a letter from the Indonesian President rejecting his appeal for clemency.

“I spent quite a lot of time with Myuran and we had long conversations about lots of different things and talked through how he was feeling about that,” he says. “It was great timing to be there and be able to sit there with him and help him at a time of crisis.”

His wife Christie is in Bali at the moment supporting Andrew Chan, who he describes as very different personality – more upbeat and extraverted, unlike the shy artist Myuran.

“His faith is strong, it’s propelling him through all of this. Myuran is a very different sort of guy. He’s very quiet and quite shy but he certainly had a very definite faith in God and I would say he’s drawing closer to God at this time.

Andrew Chan (left) and Myuran Sukamaran are on death row in Indonesia for drug trafficking.

Andrew Chan (left) and Myuran Sukamaran are on death row in Indonesia for drug trafficking.

“Andrew’s point of view is that life is hope. He’s hoping that the authorities in Indonesia will realise that both he and Myuran have completely rehabilitated, that they’ve both apologised for what they’ve done.”

Myuran and Andrew aren’t hoping to get out of prison. What they’ve requested through their lawyers is to serve out life in prison helping rehabilitate others, something they’re already doing.

With his counselling skills, Andrew supports fellow prisoners and runs the inmate church service, while Myuran runs art classes, teaches IT, design and has set up a t-shirt printing business inside the prison.

Rob thinks the Indonesian Government would be crazy not to let them live.

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“There is absolutely no point in executing them. It actually works against what the Indonesians are trying to do, to deter people from drugs.

“If they would realise what they have in these two young men, they would at least record their story, make a documentary and make it compulsory in their school curriculums over there to educate young people about the dangers of drugs.”

Having had their appeals for clemency denied, the Andrew and Myuran’s lawyers are making last-ditch attempts to have their sentences changed. That could take days, weeks or months.

This month, Indonesia announced it would be begin executing death row prisoners. On January 18, six prisoners were executed by firing squad. The next round of executions has not been announced, and the Australian media has been speculating as to whether Andrew and Myuran will be on that list. Prisoners are usually given 72 hours notice before facing a firing squad.

Andrew Chan’s testimony was printed in Eternity Newspaper last year, which you can read here. He said, “It’s not that I fear death, but I promised Him I’d serve Him for the rest of my life, and I feel I have more things to do. So if you want to pray, you could pray I’ll be released.”

For people wanting to help Andrew and Myuran, you can sign the petition calling for clemency over at the Mercy Campaign, or visit the Facebook pages Friends of Andrew Chan and Friends of Myuran Sukamaran to stay up to date with their appeal.