TODAY we come together as a nation to mourn for our dead in the MH17 tragedy.
As a nation, we will observe this day with flags flown at half-mast and a minute’s silence as the remains arrive at KL International Airport, where they will be received with a simple and dignified ceremony.
This national day of mourning is an unprecedented move befitting an unprecedented tragedy that befall the Malaysia Airlines jetliner.
Lest we forget, MH17 was shot down in the separatist region of eastern Ukraine on July 17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Lest we forget, all 298 people on board, including 43 Malaysians, lost their lives in the crash.
Lest we forget, the perpetrators who downed the plane have not been conclusively identified, much less brought to justice.
Among the Malaysian victims was a family of six from Kuching and the remains of two of them are being brought back today for burial at the Semariang Muslim cemetery.
“They will be received at the State Mosque, then we have sembahyang jenazah (prayers) for them. We will consider assistance for the family in due time, let us do it step by step,” Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said.
This day is important because it allows us to pay our respects to the victims, accord them proper recognition and honour and grieve with their families as a nation.
It is a time for us to stand in solidarity with the families and give them our support.
It is also a time for reflection and remembrance as we look back at what happened, remember the lives of the victims, express our sympathy and look ahead to how we can move on from here.
As individual Malaysians, what can we do to observe this day?
Various means have been proposed, including wearing black, generally avoiding merrymaking and holding inter-faith memorial services.
I like the suggestion by Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taosim (MCCBCHST) deputy president Jagir Singh that the best thing all Malaysians can do is to offer prayers according to their own faiths.
“This is a sad moment for all of us. We have read and heard about so many heart-wrenching stories surrounding this incident and it’s only right for us to pray for the victims’ souls to rest in peace.
“We shall pray together that the families be given the strength to bear the loss and move on,” he was quoted as saying in a news website.
He also said Malaysians could come together to pray and observe a moment of silence, wherever they might be, at the time the special ceremony to receive the victims is held.
It makes a lovely picture, the thought of groups of Malaysians from all walks of life, regardless of race or faith, joining hearts and hands in prayer on this day.
This is not merely a powerful symbol of unity and solidarity in a time of mourning but also a reminder that one of our national principles is belief in God, as the first line of the Rukunegara tells us – a principle which should compel us to reach out to one another in compassion and understanding, to do what is right and stand up for justice.
It’s also important for us to set aside our differences. Today, let us make that extra effort to be united and share in the grief of the victims’ families, whether we know them personally or not, because what happened to MH17 is a national tragedy.
Finally, this is not a time for petty complaints and incivility. In other words, I hope no one will make crass or insensitive remarks about today’s proceedings, or be rude and judgmental about those who, for whatever reason, are unable to observe the ceremony.
It’s been heart-warming actually to see the numerous messages of condolences and support from Malaysians, a much-needed reminder that many of us are good-hearted people.
For the sake of the families and the nation, let us remember that we are all Malaysians, bound at this moment by a common grief but also sharing a common decency that will bring us through the bad times.