CHURCHES throughout the world have been responding to the
apparent shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from
Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over Eastern Ukraine last Thursday, with
the loss of all 298 passengers and crew.
The majority of the victims came from the Netherlands: there
were 198 Dutch fatalities, as well as 43 Malaysian victims, 27 from
Australia, 12 from Indonesia, and ten from the UK. Others came
from Belgium, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the
Many of those who died were doctors and medical researchers who
were travelling to the international AIDS conference in
Melbourne, Australia. The disaster is the second to hit Malaysian
Airlines this year. In March, a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing
disappeared without trace, despite an extensive international
search operation in the Indian Ocean.
The independent Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox
Church, Patriarch Filaret, blamed Russia and pro-Russian
separatists for the disaster, called it "a crime under the law of
men, and terrible sin before God. What happened in the skies over
the Donbas [a region of eastern Ukraine] was a terrible
He offered prayers and condolences to the families and friends
of the victims, and said: "Based on the available information at
present, the cause of the disaster was the attack by pro-Kremlin
terrorists, who confused the passenger jet with aircraft from the
armed forces of Ukraine.
"Therefore, in addition to the direct perpetrators of the crime,
the moral responsibility for it lies with those who . . . support
military aggression against Ukraine. We are in a state of
undeclared but brutal and bloody war."
Pope Francis heard of the disaster "with dismay", a Vatican
statement said. After saying that he was praying for the victims
and their families, the Pope issued a "heartfelt appeal to all
parties in the conflict to seek peace and solutions through
dialogue, in order to avoid further loss of innocent human
"It is hard to know how to respond to the shock of what has
happened," the Chaplain of Amsterdam with Den Helder and Heiloo,
Canon Mark Collinson, said. He wrote on the website of Christ
Church, Amsterdam: "It feels like every family in this country is
touched by this tragedy. . . I hear that one whole family, whose
daughter went to my son's school, were amongst the 193 Dutch people
on the aircraft."
An ecumenical team of Protestant, Anglican, Old Catholic, and
Roman Catholic priests were working to support the "grief-stricken
family members" at Schiphol Airport, which has become a gathering
place for families. "Volunteers who normally provide support in
the chapel/meditation centre are being drafted in to provide extra
resources, so that there are at least two people available per
family," Canon Collinson said.
The International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains
condemned the attack. A spokesman for the association, Fr Chris
Piasta, based at JFK Airport in New York, said that chaplains were
working in various locations, as well as Schiphol, to support the
"The thoughts and prayers of . . . chaplains are with the
families, friends, and loved ones of all those who have lost their
lives in such drastic circumstances of the MH17 disaster," he
"This is a profound tragedy that shocks and worries all of us,"
the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the
Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said. He described some of the dead as
"our neighbours and partners at the World Health Organization here
He continued: "This tragedy, taking place in a highly sensitive
location and situation that remains poised on the brink of terrible
violence, reminds us of the fragility and sacredness of life, and
the need for peace in this region."
"I knew personally and worked with some of the people who died
in this crash", the WCC associate general secretary for Public
Witness and Diakonia, Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, said. "The WCC is
mourning the deaths of a reported 100 HIV and AIDS workers,
including some from the WHO [World Health Organisation].
"It is painful to realise that the deaths will have a negative
impact on progress that was being made in the area of HIV and AIDS
research at a global level."
In a statement to the House of Commons on Monday, the Prime
Minister said that, among the victims, were "members of an
Australian family who lost relatives on Malaysia Airlines flight
MH370, earlier this year".
Mr Cameron told MPs: "Alongside sympathy for the victims, there
is anger. There is anger that this could happen at all; there is
anger that the murder of innocent men, women, and children has been
compounded by sickening reports of looting of victims'
possessions and interference with the evidence; and there is,
rightly, anger that a conflict that could have been curtailed by
Moscow has instead been fomented by Moscow. That has to change,
Question of the week: Is there
enough reason now to impose tougher sanctions on
A MULTI-FAITH service was scheduled to be held yesterday
at St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, for the victims of last week's
Malaysian Airlines disaster.
Thirty-seven Australian citizens and residents,
including 18 from Victoria and Sister Philomene Tiernan RSCJ, a
member of staff at Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart,
Sydney, were among the dead.
Delegates travelling to Australia for the international
HIV-AIDS conference, currently being held in Melbourne, also died
in the crash.
The Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, was due
to preach at the service, which would be attended by members of the
Dutch, Malaysian, Indonesian, British, Belgian, German, US, and
Dr Freier assured those who were grieving of his
prayers. "The tragic loss . . . reminds us that, in this globalised
world, we are intimately connected with the suffering of people far
away, and in conflicts we often don't understand."