Tag Archives: 1000 Voices for Compassion

When Horror is Real.

Yesterday, we celebrated Halloween. The kids dressed up. Met up with friends and we trick-or-treated along our street meeting the neighbours. It was a lot of fun and I was really touched by the generosity of some and the trouble people went to just to make the neighborhood kids smile.

At the same time, I’m not a huge fan of Halloween both due to our beliefs but also because I know we have way too much horror in real life without making things up. Yet, at the same time, I know we watch TV shows which grafically portray these horrors and the other day a friend and I went to see a real tear-jerker: I Miss You Already starring Toni Colette and Drew Barrymore. As she was bawling her eyes out, I leaned over and said: “This is what we do for fun!”

Why didn’t we choose to see a comedy?

Of course, you don’t need to look far for any real life horror. Just switch on the News.I’m  one of those people who can’t just watch the news without absorbing it and somehow living and almost breathing some of these tragic events though my heightened sense of empathy,

But there are some cases we should never ignore. Even though they’re too gruesome and make us sick to the core, we should never turn our backs.

In what sounded like a scene out of a Steven King novel, on the 15 July 2015 a little girl was found dead in a suitcase beside the highway near the tiny South Australian town of Wynaka (regional population 167 people). She was believed to be around 2-3 years old with fair hair.Unlike Madeleine McCann, who is recognised right around the world as a much loved missing child, this little girl hadn’t even been reported missing. It was truly shocking!!

How could a little girl disappear and not be missed?

Unable to make an identification, Police turned to the public for help. Detailed photographs of a handmade, patchwork quilt were shown on the news and Police worked with patchworkers trying to find even the smallest hint of a clue. Mothers rang in recognising her clothes, trying to help date the murder.The community of Wynarka also took this little girl into their hearts and grieved her senseless death.The public really rallied to try to do anything they could to help.Evil had ended her short, precious life but the Police and community took her into our hearts and were determined to at the very least find out who she was. Give this little girl back her name, identity, family and hope against hope…catch the bastards.

As we heard about this case on the news, I’m sure we were asking the same question: How could any little child be murdered in Australia and not be missed?

As a parent, you worry when a child that age wanders more than arm’s length away. You’re absolutely frantic and you’d shout the place down. A missing child stops a nation. Stops the world. How could this little girl pass right under the radar without even a blip? Was this our Australia? The whole case was so disturbing and broke all sort of concepts of family, love, community. How could this happen?

Two weeks ago, after tip offs to Crime Stoppers, our little girl finally had a name, a family and a young Mum who had also been murdered. Mum’s unidentified body had been found in Belangelo State Forest, where the victims of Australia’s notorious Backpacker Killer, Ivan Milat had also been found. Mother and daughter had been found in separate States but at least things were starting to make sense.

Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter, Khandalyce, had been travelling around Australia when they were murdered. Like the backpackers murdered by Ivan Milat, they were travelling, seeing our beautiful country and not being caught up in the rat race for a bit. Innocence, optimism, freedom, happiness…all these images come to mind. I have travelled a bit around Australia as a single woman myself and thought nothing of it. It was safe and incredibly liberating!

But there is even evil in paradise.

It soon became evident that Karlie and “Khandles” weren’t unloved. Hadn’t gone right off the grid. They had been murdered.  Moreover,  the killers stole Karlie’s identity and even contacted her family saying they were fine…adding an extra layer of heinous barbarism to something already too awful for words. Indeed, they used her phone for 3 years after her death and stole her identity to claim welfare benefits.

The more they delve into what happened, the more ugly it gets and I can’t understand how humans can be so heartless, cruel and barbaric.This horror is also something their family can’t simply switch off either. It’s forever.

Yet, as much as I hate people talking about needing to move forward even when people have experienced such unfathomable grief, I did want to mention a life raft.

That many victims of horror, actually turn their grief into good. Change for the community. That doesn’t lessen their loss.  However, it does put them more in the driver’s seat, instead of under the truck. Here, they’re much better placed to process what’s happened and what they can do. It seems to be quite a natural desire to help prevent others from doing through their pain and they go on to make an incredible contribution for good. That good might not undo evil but hopefully it can ultimately triumph over it. Show that such acts are unacceptable and that goodness will fight back!

Our Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, became a fierce and unstoppable campaigner against Domestic Violence after her son’s father murdered him with a cricket bat. She has managed to break down barriers, red tape and people’s attitudes towards Domestic Violence in a way experts could not. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t grieve but she has salvaged good from horror and is helping countless others.

Meanwhile, I send my love to the family and friends of Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter, Khandalyce and to the Police who have worked tirelessly on an incredibly heartbreaking case with such love and compassion. I also feel for the people of Wynaka where she was found and took Khandalyce into their hearts.Your love knows no bounds.

I leave you with one of my favourite quotes:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

May we each try to do our own little bit to lessen the real horrors of humanity and make our world a safer, happier place for all.

Love and Blessings,

Rowena

Source

http://www.news.com.au/national/crime/unidentified-girl-in-suitcase-begs-the-question-how-many-other-girls-have-we-lost/story-fns0kb1g-1227493896617

Compassionately Blessed.

Today, I am participating in an incredibly inspirational global blogging movement called 1000 Voice Speak for Compassion where a thousand bloggers are writing about compassion.

I have spent the entire day reading through over 60 of these posts, which though a drop in to the proverbial ocean, I feel myself enriched, nurtured and like my heart and soul have richly fertilised through very intimate stories of hurt, pain trauma and loss. How someone’s kindness touched their hearts and brought a light through the incredible darkness. I have read very concise posts with some excellent tips on how to exercise more compassion in our lives because, as other bloggers pointed out, compassion is a verb. There have also been a lot of people looking around them and feeling a sense of despair as they observe and feel immersed in a culture that either doesn’t care, has compassion fatigue or is simple the “ME generation”. At the same time, these compassionate souls are determined to flow against this tide and be the difference.

Doubly Blessed

Doubly Blessed

At the same time I have appreciated all that I have read and hopefully soaked it up like a sponge because as I said, I really felt touched, changed encouraged by what I read, I am also conscious that I haven’t even bitten off the tip of the iceberg. I want to read all 1000 posts even though this seems like such an impossibility. But you see, I don’t want to miss out. This project has brought bloggers together from right around the world and each of us has I’m sure tried to produce our very best and surely most inspirational work. This is the “if I could only write one post before I die, this is what I’d say” type of stuff…life-changing, unforgettable and something to cling onto like a limpet to a rock. If you haven’t tried getting a limpet off a rock at the beach, it’s pretty much impossible. They cling very, very tight!!

I have made a few observations on my travels today:

1) Thank you to those who use first names on their blog. So many bloggers don’t have first names or even no name at all. Here we are writing about the importance of compassion without getting personal. I almost always leave a comment on a blog because I want people to that someone has read their work and appreciated it. Comments make my day and being an advocate for the Golden Rule, I like to treat people the way I like to be treated. My name is Rowena although I also go by Roweeee and I like to start all my comments with a “Hi….” While just leaving names blank seems to be such a part of blogging etiquette, if you are reading this, I consider you more enlightened. We don’t need to be afraid of each other or ourselves and a first name isn’t going to announce your whereabouts.

2) While it’s all very well to write about compassion, we also need to read these posts ourselves…as many of the 1000 posts as we can. We will be so much better people for it. Moreover, what’s the point of spreading compassion out into the world if we don’t read and absorb our own medicine. The change starts with us. Writing really is in so many ways a monologue of talk and to be truly compassionate, we need to listen and in this context that means read! Read! Read! Yes, and respond writing comments and share and exchange perspectives and personal parts of ourselves. We need to be the change!

It now seems like writing the post was the easy part!

3) I have noticed a mix of posts sharing positive experiences of people being compassionate to them through hard times and how the blogger was also there for someone. Came to their rescue. There have also been quite a few laments about a lack of compassion in our world and also the widespread prevalence of compassion fatigue both due to overexposure on TV or charitable fundraising efforts.

I would like to remind people of the very public outpourings of love, compassion and practical support which really warm your hearts and restore your faith in human nature. Here are a few examples:

The Brisbane Floods 2011:

Queenslanders played on during the flood clean-up.

Queenslanders played on during the flood clean-up.

When severe flooding devastated Brisbane in January, 2011 more than 26,000 Brisbane homes were flooded: 11,900 completely submerged and another 14,700 were partially flooded. This crisis resulted in the creation of a volunteer army to help people clean the stinky river mud out of their home and clean the place up. The response was incredible with volunteers even coming from inter-state. More than 22,000 people registered with Volunteering Queensland to help. Talk about compassion in action!!

The Paris March January 11, 2015

Huge Crowds March through Paris January 11, 2015

Huge Crowds March through Paris January 11, 2015

The huge floral tribute in Sydney’s Martin Place after the Sydney Siege in the Lindt Cafe in December, 2014.

Floral tributes in Martin Place: www.abc.net.au

Floral tributes in Martin Place: http://www.abc.net.au

It is important that int those times of doubt that we remember these moments were love and compassion have triumphed over hate, violence, natural disasters and more.

Through this celebration of compassion, we have sown the seeds of compassion on very fertile ground and we are now called on to nurture, water and feed those seeds to see them grow tall.

This post is part of a blessed initiative 1000 Voices for Compassion conjured up by the wonderful Yvonne Spence and Lizzi Rogers at Considerings. Please visit their blogs and consider joining this huge campaign. We could all use more compassion.

The link up hosts are:

http://1000speak.wordpress.com
Roshni AaMom http://www.indianamericanmom.com/
Kristi Rieger Campbell http://www.findingninee.com/
Crystal Cook http://www.theqwietmuse.com
Erin Fangboner https://chronicallysickmanicmother.wordpress.com/
Gene’o Gordon https://justgeneo.wordpress.com/
Jen St Germain Leeman http://driftwood-gardens.com/
Michelle Liew http://gettingliteral.com/
Lisa Listwa http://www.themeaningofme.com/
Pooja S Mulleth https://ilirianravings.wordpress.com/
Katie Paul http://head-heart-health.com/
Lizzi Rogers https://summat2thinkon.wordpress.com/
Yvonne Spence http://yvonnespence.com/
Leah Vidal https://littlemisswordy.wordpress.com/
T.A. Woods http://penpaperpad.com/

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

 

 

Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment!

For so many with a passion for compassion, there can come a point where we need to reassess our vision. Admit that we have over-extended our scope or perceived list of responsibilities beyond our sphere and have actually gone too far. Moreover, although we not be thinking about compassion fatigue or burnout, we need to pull our heads in before we implode. Otherwise, instead of being able to help and support others, we risk needing help ourselves!

I would suggest that if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.

IMG_0061

There comes a time when especially the most compassionate souls need to re-visit their priorities before it’s too late.

 

I have been putting a lot of thought into compassion since I signed up for the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Movement where on this day Friday 20th February over 1000 bloggers worldwide have signed up to write a post about compassion on their blogs.

Here is a link to the project: http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=497564&fb_ref=Default

Today, is the United Nations Day of Social Justice. Thanks to my husband and has his particular way of challenging “stuff”, I would just like to stress that “social justice” has nothing to do with society taking justice into its own hands, mob rule or the formation of such abhorrent organisations as the Klu Klux Klan. Rather, it’s about giving everyone, as we Australians put it: “a fair go” and fighting against all forms of discrimination…even the insidious, invisible ones!!

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Writing one post about compassion for me is impossibly difficult. It’s like taking me to the most sumpuous smorgasbord restaurant (all you can eat)  and being told: “You can only eat one thing!”

WHAT THE???!!

My husband would tell you that’s impossible. That I could never, ever go into a smorgasbord restaurant with all those tempting tables of every kind of Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican etc etc food each piled up as high as Mt Everest and all those tantilising aromas ticklooing my senses coaxing me to completely pig out: “Eat me! Eat me! I know you want to eat me.” THat’s before we even get to dessert and I can’t even think about chocolate without salivating, even in extreme heat when most mortals find the concept of molten chocolate abhorrent.  They want something cool.

THerefore, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’ve never left a smorgasbord restaurant without feeling incredibly ill and being reminded of that infamous restaurant scene where Mr Creosote explodes in Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U

Unfortunately, my poor brain just can’t cope with sooo much choice and its default mode is:

“I’ll take the lot, thanks!!”

So with that graphic image of over-eating firmly etched in your brains, you’ll understand just how hard it is for me to write about just one aspect of compassion. There are literally limitless possibilities out there and a bit like Mr Creote, I could spew all those fabulous anecdotes and reflections out in the post, which would just be counter-productive….not to mention messy and very, very smelly, stinky and downright repulsive!!

MY instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Giving me a helping hand: my ski instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Just a few of the anecdotes I’ve considered revisiting today include address the love of a stranger and the compassionate support I received from my ski instructors who skied back down the mountain lugging my skis, boots and poles so I could take the chair lift back and conserve my small reserves of energy. Their compassion and using their physical strength for good, enabled me to ski down the best slope for my ability and give me the experience of a life time. It would not have happened otherwise and I would never have left the “magic carpet” or beginner’s area. Moreover, my testimony of skiing down the mountain for a second time after overcoming a flare up of my auto-immune disease, pneumonia and chemotherapy would not have happened.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

I also wanted to write about some of the ways people actually treat people with disabilities with anything but compassion. Things like parking in disabled car spaces without a permit, crashing into people using a walking stick and how there is the completely inadequate social support to allow people with disabilities to live with dignity. For example, despite have a muscle-wasting life-threatening disease, it took me five years to get any domestic assistance and that is completely inadequate. There are also no long term supports for parents of young children who might be dying or living with severe, disabling illness and who require ongoing child care but lack the second income to pay for it.

Just to compound this sense of paralysis through analysis and compassion overload, I started looking up inspirational quotes about compassion.

Some were beautifully poetic:

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”

Rumi

“The dew of compassion is a tear”.

Lord Byron

However, reading through compassion quotes became quite challenging and rather than concentrating my compassion into some kind of manageable, bite-sized portion, it expanded the scope exponentially:

“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”

Albert Schweitzer

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Okay. So after reading all of these quotes, I’m starting to think i should go back to the ant I saw this morning lugging that mighty big crumb and offer it a lift. After all, an ant is one of these living creatures we’re been calling on to assist!!

Ouch! Double ouch!! My brain hurts. Really hurts. This compassion fatigue seems terminal!!

But to add further salt to the wound:

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Haile Selassie

That’s why I decided to write about compassion fatigue. Not the clinical version but just the garden variety which anybody with even just the smallest social conscience can experience. After all, each of us only has so many gold coins we can put in the collection tin and some of us, especially those living with any form of severe chronic illness, can feel like we could warrant some charitable donations ourselves. That’s particularly after paying for prescriptions, a medical specialist or about ten or when all our household appliances decide to breakdown at the same time. Moreover, if you have kids, you are the charitable institution. I remember my Dad telling us that: “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. “Kids, I don’t have a money tree, you know.” I don’t know whether we ever believed him. However, I still kind of believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy and given their generosity to kids worldwide, there has to be a money tree or at least a magic wishing tree out there somewhere!!

However, all this takes me back to what has almost become a cliche:

Think global: Act Local.

We can not help or save everyone but the chances are that we can help our neighbours in small, little ways that don’t really cost much such as giving people a lift, mowing their lawn and you know what I value the most: a smile and a hug. They are absolutely free and we could keep on passing them on. Well, we would be able to send and smiles and hugs right around the world if Australia, as our national anthem so ridiculously put it, wasn’t “girt by sea”. Gee, that ocean can get in the way at times!!

That’s been my modus operandi for awhile and while blogging and recent world events have extended my scope, I will still focus on the home front. After all, “charity begins at home”.

” I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Mother Theresa

I almost forgot to mention this but unlike Atlas,  we  don’t have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The state of the world, the environment and all the people and animals in it are not our responsibiity alone. While as individuals we might be ineffective on our own, when we collaborate we can move mountains. Moreover, through the power of prayer, we can also call on divine intervention. Never under-estimate the power of prayer!! Miracles can and do happen although I must also admit that sometimes for whatever reason God seems to be deaf…just like our kids.

Here are some of the other posts I have written about compassion and tomorrow I will post a selection of posts which were part of 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/brain-plasticity-two-australians-on-death-row/

The Aftermath of the MH17 Tragedy: Compassion in Action!! Sowing those precious sunflower seeds: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=sunflower

Emotional versus Physical healing: The Struggle To Heal The Broken Foot & the Sydney Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/the-struggle-to-heal-the-broken-foot-and-the-sydney-siege/

Love of a Stranger: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=love+of+a+stranger

Skiing: Back to the Mountain Almost: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/back-to-the-mountain-almost/

Have a wonderful International Day of Social Justice and I’ll start the ball rolling by sending a smile and a hug to you!

If you have participated in 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, please leave a link and even a brief intro to your post in the comments here for inclusion in a follow-up post.

Love & blessings,

Rowena

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row

Frankly my dear, I do give a damn!!

When it comes to fighting for justice, I will personally stand up and be counted, even when the case is rather controversial. After all. it’s easy to have compassion for someone you love. It’s much more challenging when someone has a few prickles…or a past. Yet, sometimes our journey takes us down that road and we are forced to argue the points backwards and forwards inside our heads until we can make sense of it all and hopefully judgement turns to love.

I don’t know if the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia has made International news. However, as citizens of the world, this case affects each and every one of us who believe in the sanctity and importance of justice and the capacity for humanity to change and redeem itself.

We are all called to stand up and fight.

The case I am referring to is the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia: Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who were part of the notorious Bali Nine. Since their conviction, these men have completely turned their lives around and deserve a second chance. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be punished. Just that they don’t deserve to die.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

 

My justification for clemency lies in the science of brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. If you know anything at all about brain plasticity, you will know and understand that these men have changed the very physical structures of their brains through rehabilitation and are no longer who they were. That they are, indeed, very different men. After all, if you have a different brain, how can you possibly be the same?

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry , summed  this up well when he addressed the Melbourne vigil held on 18th February, 2014. Lasry had been involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005. Lasry said that he has visited Chan and Sukumaran in jail in Bali several times and was in no doubt the pair had redeemed themselves.

“The reality is that if Indonesia go ahead and execute these two men, they’ll be killing an artist and a church pastor,” he said.

“The drug traffickers have gone. The drug traffickers left in 2005. “4.

About Brain Plasticity

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity “refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[1]

In The Brain Which Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D. a psychiatrist and researcher set out to investigate neuroplasticity. “He writes that the brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature”. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

This brain plasticity isn’t just something for the laboratory or people experiencing chronic medical conditions or disability. It affects us all and is a more “scientific” explanation for what we have always known: “Use it or lose it!!”

To get an idea of how brain plasticity works, picture an old fashioned telephone exchange with all those cables plugged in. Our brain is built of these cables. So for example if we keep getting angry, those anger pathways will keep getting bigger and bigger just like exercising a muscle. Moreover, the bigger these pathways become, the angrier we will become unless we take action.

Conversely, each and every time we appease our anger and breathe deep, count to three whatever it takes, those neuropathways shrink and actually disappear. These are actual, physical changes in the structure of our brains. The brain map is different.

I have experienced these changes myself after undergoing brain surgery to treat hydrocephalus. I have experienced many changes but probably the most surprising is that I can actually play the violin and I now play in an ensemble. That takes some pretty complex brain and physical developments, which I never thought possible. I only took the violin up to help my daughter.

My argument is that through rehabilitation, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have demonstrated that through such brain plasticity, they are no longer the men they were.

Therefore, as an exceptional case and while not dismissing the severity of their crime, these new men deserve a compassionate response…jail not execution!

This quote from US President John F. Kennedy sums it up well:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”

Background to the Bali Nine

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were the ring leaders of a group of Australian drug traffickers known as “The Bali Nine”. On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested for planning to smuggle 8.3 kg (18 lb) of heroin valued at about A$4 million from Indonesia to Australia. These men were no angels and heroin, as we know, is a hard core drug which destroys lives. Authorities must do whatever it takes to get heroin off the streets. While people do dispute the death penalty, they are not advocating a more relaxed after to stopping the trade of heroin.

Going back to the time of their arrest, I didn’t have any sympathy for the Bali 9. Due to the very publicised case of alleged drug trafficker, Australian Shapelle Corby, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws had been front page news for some time. I might not agree with the death penalty but Indonesia’s tough anti-drug laws most definitely weren’t a secret.

Australian Shapelle Corby had been arrested in Indonesia on 8 October 2004 when she was found to have 4.2 kg (9.3 lb) of cannabis in a double plastic vacuum-sealed bag in her unlocked bodyboard bag. Corby was convicted on 27 May 2005 and sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Denpasar District Court and imprisoned in Kerobokan Prison. To this day, Shapelle maintains her innocence and there have been numerous theories about how the cannabis got into her body board bag. Her case became a “cause celeb” and during that media frenzy, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws was made very, very clear.

From where I was sitting in front of the TV, you’d have to be a complete idiot or have a serious death wish to even consider smuggling drugs in or out of Indonesia. I know people talked about making their luggage more secure after Shapelle’s arrest. Indeed, I’d even be checking the paperwork on my prescriptions before heading to Indonesia…especially given the amount of pills I take in a week. They could easily be perceived as trafficking quantities!

Those were the sorts of precautions your average Australian traveler was taking when the Bali 9 were arrested. Nobody wanted to be another Shapelle Corby and we were leaving absolutely nothing to chance. The consequences were just too great.

Given the historical context, the Bali 9 did come across as a bunch of idiots who had earned themselves what’s known as the Darwin Award: http://www.darwinawards.com/ After all, they didn’t need to be Einstein or have some kind of mystical crystal ball to know what they were getting themselves into. They just needed to turn on their TV. Shapelle Corby’s face was everywhere. Remember: Shapelle Corby was arrested on the 8th October 2004 and on the 27 May 2005 she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Bali Nine was arrested On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested right in the middle of Shapelle’s trial. You do have to wonder what they were thinking and if they were even thinking at all and certainly you would never expect these men to amount to anything much at all!!

That was then. This is now.

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Fast-forwarding nine years, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are changed men and are inspiring other prisoners and leading exemplary lives. These are not the same men who were convicted back in 2006. Their names might be the same and they are older versions of themselves but in terms of their soul, spirit, character and no doubt even the neurofibres in their brains, they are not who they were. Therefore, executing these men would be a great travesty of justice.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry has long campaigned against the death penalty and was involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005.

 

Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs  outlined how much the men had changed when she addressed Federal Parliament on 12th February, 2014:

“Both men are deeply, sincerely remorseful for their actions. Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate.

Andrew and Myuran are the model of what penal systems the world over long to achieve.

Successive Governors of Kerobokan Prison in Bali – whose prison has given Andrew and Myuran the opportunity to reflect and change – have testified to their remarkable transformation.

A decade on from their crimes, Andrew and Myuran are changed men. They are deeply committed to a new path.

Both men are paying their debt to society. With dedication and unwavering commitment, they are improving and enriching the lives of their fellow prisoners.

Andrew has completed a theology degree in prison. As a pastor, he now provides religious counselling and guidance to fellow inmates. On the day he received the President’s rejection of his clemency application, Andrew’s Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said he was nowhere to be found, for even at this moment of undeniable personal anguish, Andrew had taken time out to comfort a fellow inmate who was seriously ill.

Myuran – referred to by many as the ‘gentle giant’ – has nearly completed a fine arts degree in jail. He has had the opportunity to become an accomplished artist; his raw talent recognised and fostered by his friend and mentor, renowned artist Ben Quilty.

In prison, Andrew and Myuran sought permission from prison authorities and began an array of courses to benefit fellow inmates, and to prepare them for their return to society.

They have led extensive and varied arts, cultural and vocational courses. Some of their courses are aimed directly at drug addicts, equipping them with the skills to beat their addiction, saving their lives and giving them real prospects in the future.

Andrew and Myuran have raised money for fellow inmates’ medical procedures; for victims of Typhoon Haiyan; for Indonesia National Day festivities.

Indeed, such is the profound effect of Andrew and Myuran’s inspiring humility and service, their fellow prisoners have come forward to lend support, even offering to take their place in execution to President Widodo…

Their remarkable rehabilitation, and the circumstances of their arrest, has prompted five successive Australian Prime Ministers to make representations in their name. [2]

What Brain Plasticity Means For Chan & Sukumaran. Why Spare These Men?

If somebody completely turns their life around and becomes an entirely new and different person on the inside, should they still be judged and sentenced to death because of crimes they committed in the past? Although they have the same name and DNA, they are a different person and things become very problematic.

Would justice truly be served and can we as a global community just stand back in good conscience and do nothing to spare these men? Or, do we both as a society and as individuals need to do whatever it takes to prevent such a tragic and unjust loss of life?

The answer is a resounding “yes”!! After all, two wrongs have never made a right!!

Although I have never met these men and I certainly don’t support the use or sale of such drugs, there is such resounding evidence that these men have significantly and are now dramatically improving the lives of those around them as well, rehabilitating and educating other prisoners much more effectively than other methods.

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, whose husband was charged and convicted of a similar crime to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, spoke out in Parliament saying: “criminals can be redeemed – my husband is proof.”

She adds that the laws which underpin the executing these men is the basic “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law that has influenced the Old Testament and earlier legal codes in countries around the world. But that’s 3,700 years ago. We’ve moved on a great deal from an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-12/plibersek-these-men-deserve-restorative-justice-not-execution/6088334.

I also thought it was interesting that at last night’s vigil, emotional statements were read from the pair, which acknowledged their original stupidity,  saying that  the “compassion and kindness from people forgiving our stupidity” has made them feel “truly blessed” 4″

Their Last Words

Andrew Chan: “Thoughts from the Edge

“Thank you Jesus that you give me the strength and courage that I need to stand strong and to trust in you when the waters arise.”

“I thank you Jesus that you never give up on me and that your faithfulness is what helps me striving forward. I thank you for all the family and friends you surround me with in life and how your love pours out from them.”

“The Lord is revealing to me through this scripture is about how he’ll fight the battles for us and that we won’t be defeated if he goes ahead of us… The truth is God is remind us that when all seems helpless and you feel as though the enemies army surrounds you, God is telling us to stand still, take up our battle stance but do not move.[3]

Myuran Sukumaran – Thoughts from the edge

“When you are young you think money is the only way to get happiness … after being here for eight years you realize it is not.”

“After being in prison for eight years I only realized when it comes when it comes to drugs nobody gets rich – there are a few people – most get caught and end up in places like this and that’s the lesson.”

“I want to become a better person and I want to help everybody else become a better person as well. It is like a vehicle for everybody to travel in to better themselves.”

Last Words or a New Beginning…

Time is running out and I don’t know what any of us can do at this late hour. I understand that over 30,000 Australians have written to the Indonesian Attorney General pleading for mercy and many many people have spoken publically. Last night, a vigil was being held in Sydney to pray for the men and their families and this was just one of many. I can sense a collective heartache if these efforts fail and these two young men are put to death.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are in my heartfelt prayers.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

*Please reblog this post and spread the word. It now looks like the lives of these men rest on divine intervention and people power.

As the saying goes: “Never give up”!!!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

[1] · Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., Merabet L. B. (2005). “The plastic human brain cortex”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216.

[2] Parliamentary motion: Chan and Sukumaran, Address to House of Representatives Speech, E&OE, Parliament House, Canberra,12 February 2015.

[3] http://www.news.com.au/national/six-living-former-prime-ministers-make-united-final-plea-for-doomed-bali-nine-duo/story-fncynjr2-1227222259664

4) www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/vigils-held-for-bali-nine-pair-facing-execution/6143978

Paintings: http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/bali-nine-member-myuran-sukumaran-paintings-in-melbourne/story-fnh81fz8-1227049488225

I apologise  for any breaches of copyright regarding the images used in this post. I am merely trying to support their cause.