DEATH ROW PRISONER ANDREW CHAN IS ORDAINED A MINISTER
It was an occasion to mark a milestone in a life of crime and redemption, of selfishness transformed to selflessness, and one celebrated in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. In the chapel in Kerobokan prison recently, a small group of family and pastors gathered for the ordination of Andrew Chan, former heroin smuggling “ringleader”, as a Christian minister. After six years of study, and even more time tending to the drug addicted and damaged, Chan’s ordination took place just days after he received an official letter confirming his plea for clemency had been rejected by Indonesian president Joko Widodo.
“It was a very difficult time for him,” says Christie Buckingham, a senior pastor with the Bayside Church in Melbourne. “It was a sober, sacred and very quiet moment.” Rev Buckingham had come to Bali with a letter of accreditation formally recognising Chan as a Christian minister in Australia. It was awarded after an exhaustive process of study, practical work and, the endorsement of five senior ministers from different denominations. A group of Indonesian pastors also joined the ceremony in the chapel, where Chan has played a leading role in services for years, belting out hymns and songs of praise with his trademark bellowing voice.
Those present prayed as Chan was handed his certificate, a new Bible and an excerpt from the Second Epistle to Timothy to “Preach the Word in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” Buckingham said “Andrew and his mother held it and each other and I turned my back to give them some privacy, as did the others. They were deeply moved,” she recounts. “He has wanted to become a pastor since the moment he began his transformation. His faith is his life and no half measures would work for him.”
Buckingham went on “He wants to do his best and be his best – not for himself but as part of the responsibility he feels towards others.” Several current and former inmates of Kerobokan have offered to replace Chan and face the firing squad, such is the depth of feeling for his work running drug counselling courses and comforting the sick. Michael Chan said his brother’s ordination was a subject of immense pride for the family, especially his parents, who have converted to Christianity. “With all the bad news that’s happening, it was really uplifting,” he said.
Rev Buckingham said his coursework was demanding and his elevation to the ministry difficult to achieve. “Andrew is extraordinary with such a determination to learn, in fact almost a desperation,” she said. “He is the real deal, and Myuran Sukumaran is as well.” “Both men are living proof that people can change. Indonesia should be proud of the impact they are having. Those making the decisions should actually meet these men and look into their eyes, see the work they have done and what their system can produce. We continue to pray for them. Where there is life, there is hope.” Buckingham said.
Andrew Chan’s testimony was written in 2013 and published by ‘Leading The Way’, an International Evangelism Organisation. It read: I found myself in Kerobokan Prison. At first I thought it was no big deal, ‘I’ll get outta this’. It wasn’t until I ended up in solitary confinement that I realised I wasn’t going to get outta this. In fact, I figured they were gonna kill me. I had never felt so hopeless and alone before, and decided that if they were going to kill me anyway, I’d just do it myself. I took my t-shirt off and made a noose, and then remembered the Heaven/Hell issue, and decided that if I was gonna kill myself I should make sure I ended up in Heaven.
I wasn’t sure how to do that, but figured I should pray. I wasn’t sure how to do that either, so I looked up and just said, ‘God, if You’re real, and for the first time in my life I began to cry and ended up on my knees. I said, ‘God if you’re real, send someone who cares about me to see me.’ I fell asleep like that. At 6.30 the next morning a guard woke me. He said ‘Get up, you’ve got a visitor.’ He took me to the visitor area and I saw my brother. I thought, my Mum must have seen this on the news and sent my brother to see about me, because I knew my brother wouldn’t just come – we don’t like each other. We get along like cats and dogs.
When I got to him, he said, ‘Andrew, no matter what happens or how long it takes, I’m gonna be here with you.’ I told him to bring me a Bible. I started in Genesis when I got it but I got nothing out of it. Someone else came to visit me who was a Christian, and I told him I was reading the Bible but didn’t get much out of it, and he told me to read the New Testament. I didn’t even know what that was and told him I didn’t have one. He had to explain to me that it was a part of the Bible, and told me to start reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I read through the New Testament a couple of times, but didn’t really notice any change. I just didn’t get it.
Just before my court date, I remember reading Mark 11.23,24, where it says that if you have enough faith you can say to this mountain, ‘Be removed’ and God will do it. So I said, ‘God, if You’re real and if this is true, I want You to free me, and if You do I’ll serve You every day for the rest of my life.’ I went to my court hearing and they convicted me and gave me the death penalty. When I got back to my cell, I said, ‘God, I asked You to set me free, not kill me.’ God spoke to me and said, ‘Andrew, I have set you free from the inside out, I have given you life!’
From that moment on I haven’t stopped worshipping Him. I had never sung before, never led worship, until Jesus set me free.’ My last appeal is on the President’s desk for review. If he doesn’t grant it, I’ll be executed. 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 that I’ll be released.’
Tough lockout laws and restrictions on the sale of alcohol have reduced violent incidents in Sydney’s party precinct but the number of people with mental trauma brought on by drinking continues to rise, according to a St Vincent’s Hospital psychiatrist. Peter McGeorge said there were about 300 mental health presentations at the hospital each month, of which at least 30% were related to alcohol. “We haven’t seen any fall-off in those figures; if anything there has been an increase,” Dr McGeorge said. “I don’t think the lockout laws have had any effect on our patients”.
Dr McGeorge made his comments as visiting anthropologist Dr Anne Fox, who specialises in cultural understanding of substance abuse, released her own report into the behaviour of Australians and New Zealanders in “night-time economies”. People who commit violent acts while drunk were already violent people, Dr Fox said, and were not necessarily disinhibited because of being drunk. “When you study drinking internationally and you compare cultures, it is not the amount they drink, the places they drink or what they drink that determine what the behaviour or the culture is,” she said.
“It is what they believe alcohol is capable of. What differs between countries are other aspects of culture, magnified perhaps through drinking. The ones who are probably most problematic are those with the underlying machismo culture.” The report, “Understanding behaviour in the Australian and New Zealand night-time economies”, says regardless of how drunk people are, 90 per cent of violent men “select” their victims. And angry people are more likely to drink, rather than alcohol being responsible for anger. The report cites lockout laws and alcohol-sale restrictions in Newcastle, which reduced violent incidents from 99 per quarter to 68 per quarter.
These effects have not been repeated elsewhere, such as in Geelong, it says. “One reason for this may be that Newcastle police reported to me that they employed another strategy — one that has not been widely noted in scientific evaluations of the measures — and that is a dramatic increase in bail checks,” the report says. Newcastle Police Superintendent John Gralton told Dr Fox bail compliance checks of those with curfews had risen from 40 to 400 a month during the study. “Early and purposeful intervention in the lives of young men who commit violent acts could speed up cultural change,” the report says.
The report was commissioned by beverage company Lion, but Dr Fox says she accepted the contract only on the condition the final product was hers alone. NSW introduced sweeping lockout laws last year around notorious party spot Kings Cross and state-wide maximum hours for bottle shops after single-punch attacks killed Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, both 18. “It does a disservice to the families of these victims to use alcohol as a scapegoat and not address the underlying issue,” Dr Fox said. There are implications in this research for the broader legal fraternity, particularly in sexual assault cases or other matters where people “black out”.
“Alcohol does not hijack your moral compass and make you behave in a way that is unnatural to you,” Dr Fox said. “This extends to the legal environment, especially when people can’t remember what they did while they were drunk. People extrapolate backward and assume this means you had no control over your actions. This is not the same thing.” She said better profiling of violent offenders should become commonplace and earlier interventions were needed for repeat patients at emergency wards.
PRIME MINISTER’S LEADERSHIP SECURE FOR NOW SAYS MP WHO BACKED SPILL MOTION
The Liberal MP who was first to declare he had lost confidence in Tony Abbott’s leadership says the Prime Minister’s chances of remaining in the top job are “looking good”. West Australian MP Dennis Jensen was one of three MPs to publicly disavow their leader several weeks ago which prompting a spill motion in the party room, which was voted down 61-39. Dr Jensen has recently said his calls for Mr Abbott to change his leadership “style” and “substance” have been heard, and that the Prime Minister and his office are being more consultative.
“With something like a spill motion, often you get people in the Prime Minister’s position who would sort of tend to bunker down and have a certain siege mentality about them,” he said. “In fact, the Prime Minister has done the reverse. “He has opened up, he’s become far more forthcoming and far more available, and I think that’s all showing in terms of the public perception.” Many MPs have echoed Dr Jensen’s comments, with one saying Mr Abbott’s “share price has gone up a lot in the last month”. If the Prime Minister keeps going the way he’s going in terms of being open, in terms of listening to what his colleagues are saying … I think he’ll be fine.
Some disagree and a number still feel “nervous” about a perceived lack of narrative or clear message in the lead-up to the Federal budget in May. Mr Abbott has promised the budget would be “dull and routine”, and declared that a forecast debt ratio of up to 60 per cent of GDP was “pretty good” compared with other nations and compared to its trajectory under Labor. Dr Jensen is confident Mr Abbott will not be toppled in a leadership coup, provided he can earn the “trust” of the Australian public in the coming weeks and months.
While the Government has had success with some contentious policies, including negotiating with Labor for tougher national security laws, revoking passports of foreign fighters and the mandatory collection of people’s metadata, the Upper House continues to stymie long-term cuts on Government spending. Mr Abbott recently described the Senate as “feral”, much to the disgust of key crossbenchers like Independent senator Jacqui Lambie. However, sole remaining Palmer United Party senator Dio Wang said he considers that description to be a badge of honour.
“We’re doing our job to make sure the public wishes are reflected in the Senate, and if the Government is not happy about that and calls us feral, then that’s a compliment,” Senator Wang said. “We’re doing our job.” Senator Wang said some Liberal ministers had been more “proactive” in their negotiations with him and he hoped that trend would continue. “Being a senator for a small party, I really appreciate that because the legislation sometimes doesn’t make much sense to me because there is a whole lot of history and background in the bill itself so being able to be briefed by both sides of politics helps me to build a much better picture,” he said.