Mourners gather to honour Australia’s MH17 victims at public memorial service in Melbourne
A congregation of more than 1200 people packed the cathedral in Melbourne this morning to pay their respects and honour the lives of the 298 victims of MH17, including the 18 Victorians who were murdered.
The mother of Sunbury man Albert Rizk, who died alongside his wife Maree, was held up by relatives as she left the church. She was too overcome with grief to speak.
Mr Rizk’s brother Alfred said community support in the wake of the pair’s death had brought comfort and strength to their family.
“Today has eased the pain a little,” Mr Rizk said.
“There’s been very overwhelming support – it’s fantastic.
“It’s been very hard, you can’t imagine.”
But without the bodies of their loved ones, the family cannot begin their healing process.
Mr Rizk was at work when he received a phone call from his daughter, Lianna-Danielle Rizk, last Friday.
“My aunty rang us and told us and I then phoned dad,” Miss Rizk said.
“I woke up to my mum screaming.”
They said it had been a painful wait for news of when the victims’ bodies would be returned.
Miss Rizk said the family would not be able to rest “until they (Albert and Maree) are home, if they come home”.
Relatives of Maree Rizk travelled from Queensland for the service and will remain this week with their extended family in Frankston and Sunbury.
Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne Dr Philip Freier said “a week ago we could not have imagined that we would be gathering here today”.
“A week ago those who boarded flight MH17 had only the ordinary concerns that come with the anticipation of travel,” he said.
“A week ago, we all had little expectation about the way in which a conflict on the other side of the world could collide brutally and destructively with so many innocent people.”
Addressing the gathering, with pews full and more than a hundred who were standing at the rear of the Flinders St Cathedral with dozens more listening to a broadcast in Federation Square, Archbishop Freier spoke of the shock of the tragedy — and the need for justice.
Relatives and friends from at least five families of the Victorian victims were present, as were dignitaries and clerics from Malaysia and the Netherlands.
“Nothing is ordinary about the circumstances of death of 298 people whose lives were lost in an instant over the eastern Ukraine,” he said.
“Other international air flights were on similar flight paths, in front of and after MH17.
“They reached their destination safely. MH17 did not.”
Emotional family and friends supported each other as they entered the cathedral, with some carrying flowers.
Flowers bearing emotional messages were also placed on the church steps by members of the public.
“Australia mourns the loss of her children,” read one note beside a bunch of daffodils.
“37 daffodils to represent your beautiful spirits. May you find sunshine in Heaven.”
The note is signed by Susannah C.
Mourners included Bacchus Marsh Grammar School friends of the three young Van den Hende children, who died together with their parents Shaliza and Hans.
Sports teams also arrived to pay their respects, including Sunbury Lions football club which is mourning the loss of their dedicated committee member Albert Rizk and his wife Maree.
While the immediate attention was on the grieving and loss, Archbishop Freier said there was a need for justice and for those responsible for the disaster to identify themselves.
“Our sense of justice will undoubtedly be offended by the failure of anyone to step forward and take responsibility for what has happened.
“From what we know, someone gave orders to destroy MH17.”
There would also have been a chain of command required to make the decision, the Archbishop said.
“It cannot be true that no-one knows what happened.
“Who can say when and to what extent there will be satisfactory answers to these questions.
“Such answers that may come might inevitably be frustrated by the unpredictable world of international relations and diplomacy.
“What we can be certain of however is the inevitability of God’s justice. What might not always be satisfied in this world will certainly find its true measure in the judgement of God.”
Archbishop Freier said the tragic loss and the aftermath had left the world reeling.
“Despite what we now know, the impending diaster was unforeseen and its risks uncalculated.”
He said what followed from Thursday last week was also distressing.
“Even in death, a proper and dignified response has struggled to find a place in the midst of a violent separatist war.
“We gather, to offer the best that we can be for each other in grief.
“We gather to show respect for the dead, to do our best to honour them.
“Each death of those 298 people is individually a tragedy.
“Each of those people had all of the God-given vitality and potential that made them who they were for those who knew them.
“It is proper that we grieve for each as much as we grieve for all.”
But the most intimate of grieving would be sadly delayed until the bodies of the Australian and other victims are repatriated to their home countries, the Archbiship said, adding that may yet take some time.
“How far off that will be is not yet known.
“But we can been encouraged by the determination and resolve of so many international leaders and forensic experts to do all that is possible to expedite the repatriation of the bodies of loved ones to their bereaved families around the world.”
A range of Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist leaders also formed part of the service.
Victorian Governor Alex Chernov and Premier Denis Napthine attended the multi-faith memorial service, with Dr Napthine reading an early 20th century tribute to the victims written by Dutch-American clergyman and author Henry van Dyke.
The service was a chance for Victorians to show their support for the family and friends of those killed from around Australia when the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over Ukraine.
A total of 36 Australians, including eight permanent residents, have been confirmed among the dead after the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot out of the sky.
A big screen broadcast the service at Federation Square.
Victoria carries the highest death toll of any Australian state, with 10 citizens and eight permanent residents among the dead.
Delegates from the 20th International AIDS Conference also attended to mourn colleagues who lost their lives on the journey to Melbourne.
Dr Napthine announced the details of the service earlier this week, and said the “significant outpouring of grief for those innocent victims” had led to the decision to hold a public gathering.
“I think having a church service now, particularly with the AIDS 2014 (conference) in a nearby location, gives people a chance to come together and express their grief and also express their support and sympathy for the families and communities affected,” he said.
Source : http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/mourners-gather-to-honour-australias-mh17-victims-at-public-memorial-service-in-melbourne/story-fni0fit3-1226999252359
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