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Condemnation after flight MH17 disaster

25 July 2014


A light for each life: the RC Auxiliary Bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the Rt Revd Jan Hendriks, joins churchgoers to light 298 candles - one for each victim from the aircraft - before a eucharist in St Bavo Cathedral, Haarlem, in the Netherlands, on Sunday

A light for each life: the RC Auxiliary Bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the Rt Revd Jan Hendriks, joins churchgoers to light 298 candles - one for each...

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 Philippines.

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 tragedy."

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 lives".

"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 families.

"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 said.

"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 in Geneva".

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, now."

Question of the week: Is there enough reason now to impose tougher sanctions on Russia? 

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 Canadian communities.

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."

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