It was unusually warm for autumn, a peculiar thing to remember I know, but I can still recall that warmth even now. It was so bright and cheerful outside compared to the cool warehouse in which I worked.
Although it was like any other workday, there was an air of anticipation and we all went about our duties longing for that moment to materialize. We were awaiting a verdict, that was to be handed down late that afternoon, and it was all that we could talk about as we packaged hundreds of bottles into small cardboard boxes. ‘She is guilty’, some of my co-workers declared, ‘She deserves the maximum sentence’! Others fervently disagreed stating that ‘She was set up’ and clearly ‘Innocent’. I sat there and listened to their passionate debate, each one of them blinded by their convictions.
I think everyone believed that they had some secret knowledge about her; people argued as if only they were privy to particular details relating to the case. They weren’t of course, but still they debated as if they were.
The court case was gripping, and I was fascinated to know what people thought about this women and her plight. But more than that I think I was interested as to why they cared so much.
I suppose I don’t know why I cared so much about the fate of a woman I never knew? Perhaps this case interested us all because we saw an Australian citizen trapped in a foreign land, completely at the mercy of an alien legal system, and no amount of money or diplomatic negotiations could spare her from a trial. Or maybe, deep down, we were all engrossed by this case because if her allegations of corrupt airline baggers were true, then maybe it could be us standing trial that day.
Either way it doesn’t matter why I cared so much, but I worked that day in anticipation of a verdict that would ultimately change someone’s life forever.
In the late afternoon sun on May 29th 2005, I walked to my uncle’s car to watch the courts verdict. My uncle had recently purchased a brand new car, and liked to brag incessantly about its multiple features, none of which I understood or really cared about. Nonetheless this brand new vehicle had a small television set lodged between the two front seats, so we all walked across the dirt packed driveway and slipped onto the leather bound chairs to watch the televised judgment.
Eight years have passed
It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since that day when Schapelle Corby was sentenced to 20 years in prison. I remember it all so vividly; Schapelle’s deep concentrated gasps for air, Mercedes (her sister) furor from the gallery and the fervent cameramen and journalists that surrounded the Balinese courtroom.
The controversial case engulfed our nation; every media outlet and dining room table was consumed by this young Queensland woman and her drug-filled boogie board. Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion about this woman’s culpability; for some she was a pot-smoking drug addict who knowingly trafficked narcotics into Indonesia, whilst others saw a victim of corrupt baggage handlers, drug smugglers and dishonest relatives. Schapelle Corby became the new Lindy Chamberlain.
Even now, eight years later, people still become enraged about Corby and her conviction; many Australians still get riled up at the mention of her name, they still have theories about the case and most still believe that ‘they’ are the only ones that know the truth.
Last month this widespread fascination with Corby was highlighted once again when the governor of Kerobokan jail recommended that Corby receive yet another reduction in her prison sentence. Corby’s plight dominated the national consciousness once more, as online blogs and social media websites erupted with comments espousing her guilt or innocence.
Although I knew people were passionate about this case, I suppose I was shocked by how angry and hateful people could be. Not only were online commentators merciless towards her but also each other, as many users began to fight and sledge one another. Some online users declared that Corby should ‘rot in prison’ and that authorities ‘throw away the key on a stupid, stupid girl’. However the standout comment in my opinion came from an online user who wrote ‘rot in hell you ugly mole’.
Is mercy a ‘value’ today?
I suppose I didn’t write this article to draw attention to Corby or to discuss whether she is guilty or innocent of a crime she was convicted of eight years ago. Rather I think this recent barrage of online comments led me to consider mercy; why we so often lack compassion towards others whilst we desire, even demand, mercy for our own sins?
Just like the Corby case, people frequently lack mercy towards one another in this world; we are quick to criticize and judge people while admonishing them for their mistakes. Instead of demonstrating compassion and mercy we tend to take the moral high ground in which we profess to know better or be better than those making mistakes around us. However when it is us making mistakes or breaking the rules or even hurting those we love, we expect forgiveness, sympathy and benevolence without hesitation or reservation.
As Christians we believe in a merciful God who forgives us our sins as we are told to forgive those who sin against us. We believe in a God who will extend mercy to us during our final days, a time in which all our sins will be poured out and accounted for. It is during this time that we will want, nay hunger, for his mercy and be thankful that we have a savior who is compassionate and merciful towards us.
In Matthew 5 verse 7 it says “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”.
In a world that rejects mercy and compassion, let us be an example of Christ and extend mercy!
Alison Barkley lives in Newcastle and is a post graduate student at Macleay College in Sydney in book editing and publishing.
Alison Barkley’s previous articles may be viewed at (www.pressserviceinternational.org/alison-barkley.html)