By Penny Mulvey
It was like an electric shock. How is it possible? An international carrier shot down whilst travelling at speed, 35,000 feet above ground, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
Very quickly we learnt that Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, which departed Amsterdam on Thursday 17 July was brought down as it flew over the Ukraine, in an area occupied by pro-Russian rebels.
How is this possible? Holidaymakers returning home. People travelling to celebrate significant occasions with loved ones. AIDS researchers travelling to Melbourne for an international conference. Malaysian crew undertaking their daily work. In those brief and terrifying moments it took MH17 to fall from the sky, creating a crash site spread across 33 square kilometres,Australia’s sense of immunity from world conflicts evaporated.
No longer are the conflicts only ‘over there’ in Ukraine, Syria, the Gaza Strip, Sudan, Nigeria, Iraq, Sri Lanka…the list goes on. Civilian men, women and children are killed by enemy fire with frightening regularity in these strife-ridden regions. We skim over it as we read the paper.
The act committed on MH17, senselessly claiming the lives of beautiful young children, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, including 38 Australian citizens and permanent residents, once again reminded us of the fragility of life.
Anthony Maslin and Marite Norris, parents of Evie, Mo and Otis, who were travelling back to their home in Western Australia with their grandfather Nick on MH17, put out a statement addressed to the soldiers in the Ukraine, the politicians, the media, their friends and family. In this public letter, they spoke of the hell in which they now inhabit without their children. But they also write of love:
“No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for our children, for Mo, for Evie, for Otis. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for Grandad Nick. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for each other.
“This is a revelation that gives us some comfort.”
Unexpected and brutal loss of life is without explanation. It is impossible to give it meaning. Perhaps the meaning lies in the memories of the lives lost and the future lives of those who remain. And as Christians we too can proclaim the message of Anthony and Marite, that love is stronger than hate.
The multifaith service for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 held at St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne on 24 July, opened with this prayer:
Lord God, help us to know that goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death, and that victory is ours through him who loves us. Amen