Touching: Zainal Abidin Ahmad speaking at the memorial service. -AFP
MELBOURNE: Malaysia’s High Commissioner to Australia Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad recited a verse from a chapter of the Quran at the Australian national memorial service here for the 298 people on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 who perished on July 17.
The verse, from Chapter 31 (Luqman), reminds that Allah alone has knowledge of any event and that no one could even know if they will benefit from tomorrow or perceive where they will die.
More than 1,800 mourners gathered at St Patrick’s Cathedral here yesterday to remember the 38 Australian citizens and permanent residents, including Malaysians, who were killed en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when the plane was believed to have been shot down over eastern Ukraine.
Mourners, including many who flew in from Kuala Lumpur, shed tears as they placed yellow wattleseed branches on a wreath in honour of the dead.
Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart welcomed the congregation before the Australian Boys Choir sang the national anthem.
“The why of terror, the incredulity and condemnation of the perpetrators gave way to an avalanche of compassion, love and prayer for those so burdened,” said Hart.
“You have not been abandoned and you never will be,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the gathering, which included Malaysian Consul-General Datuk Dr Mohd Rameez Yahaya and MAS manager Terence Swampillai.
Abbott said it was a time to rededicate the nation to supporting the bereaved, obtaining justice for the dead and for their families, and to working for a better world.
Leaders of different faiths addressed the packed cathedral before Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove spoke of the grief, shock, anger, confusion and loss felt across the globe as a result of the disaster.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said: “We mourn 38 of our own who laughed, learned and loved beneath the Southern Cross that today flies at half-mast around the nation.”
Melbourne was chosen for the memorial service because 16 of the 38 Australian citizens and residents killed lived here. — Bernama