The Blacktown Advocate reports…
“It’s a plea of mercy echoed around the nation but for Toongabbie pastor Mithran Chellappah, the need to save Bali Nine pair Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan is personal.
Senior pastor of the C3 Church on Octavia St, Mr Chellappah has known the Sukumaran family for more than 15 years as members of his congregation.
“They’re amazing and wonderful people,” he said.
“They have a humble lifestyle and are very hardworking.”
Young Myuran attended several youth meetings and camps at the C3 Church, where Mr Chellappah described him as “cheeky and very playful”.
On April 17, 2005, Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan were arrested along with seven other Australians at Denpasar airport over suspicions they were trying to smuggle more than 8kg of heroin out of Indonesia. On February 15, 2006, the pair were found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s hard-line stance on drug trafficking means the men’s bids for clemency have repeatedly been denied. Mr Chellappah said he was devastated to hear the men’s executions may be imminent.
“My frustration is that people have come to conclusions based on information that was 10 years ago,” he said.
“It’s not current; they have made an amazing transformation, which doesn’t happen to very many people. In the sight of God, a mistake is a mistake — there’s no big or small ones, just mistakes.
“They’ve achieved more during prison than I have in 10 years of freedom.”
Two vigils were held in Western Sydney last week — at C3 Church in Toongabbie on Wednesday and at Parramatta’s Prince Alfred Park on Friday.
Mr Chellappah said they were pleas of mercy from the community directly to the Indonesian Government.
“I do agree that what they did was wrong and many people would have suffered if the drugs were brought to Australia,” the pastor said.
“It’s not that they should be sent home or released — just that they should be given a second chance to continue what they are doing in jail.”
Guest speakers at the Toongabbie vigil included radio broadcaster Alan Jones, artist Ben Quilty and Mr Sukumaran’s grandmother, Edith Visvanathan.
More than 1000 people attended the Toongabbie vigil.
Stories of Mr Sukumaran’s generosity to other prisoners, including buying medication to help the sick within its walls, were “evidence” of his positive influence, Mr Chellappah said.
“We’re all products of second chances,” the Toongabbie pastor said.
“He’s helping everyone who comes into contact with him. I strongly believe that God will give them a second chance.”
The Sukumaran family have rallied behind their beloved son and brother in Bali, where Myuran and Mr Chan’s transfer from the infamous Kerobokan prison to Nusakambangan, dubbed Bali’s “execution island”, was recently delayed.
Mr Chellappah recalled a haunting moment he shared with Mr Sukumaran almost two weeks ago.
“He had drawn that particular place where they tie them up and shoot them and said: ‘Pastor, do you know what this means?’” Mr Chellappah said.
“I asked him, ‘could you turn it into a cross and we can hang it inside the church.’
“(Myuran) puts on a brave face for his family, but it’s been very tough.”