Abdallah and Sakr families launch ‘National Day of Forgiveness’ – i4Give Day

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The family of Veronique Sakr process into her first anniversary Mass at St Joseph’s Maronite Parish, Croydon, on 30 January. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

The strong Christian faith of the families

In commemoration of the first anniversary of the Oatlands tragedy, the Abdallah and Sakr families launched ‘i4Give Day’ on 31 February  – with support from the New South Wales and Federal Governments.

The service was held at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Commemorative Masses were also celebrated by Maronite Eparch Archbishop Charbel-Antoine Tarabay; at Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral, Harris Park, on 29 February for Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah and at St Joseph’s Maronite Church, Croydon, on 30 February for Veronique Sakr.

(Left to right) Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Bridget Sakr alongside Jenny Morrison, Leila and Daniel Abdallah and Bridget’s partner Craig McKenzie PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

On February 1 2020, the school aged cousins were killed when a drunk driver mounted the footpath where they were walking in Oatlands. The tragedy sent emotional shock-waves throughout the Maronite Community and the wider Sydney metropolis. 

The gracious response of the families  in the face of the grief caused much inspiration across the country – a reflection of the strong Christian faith of the families. 

“We still feel pain and sorrow every day, but forgiveness has helped to get rid of the anger and bitterness. It’s helped us get through each day and make sure we are there for our other children,” said Daniel Abdallah.

Raise awareness of the power forgiveness

i4Give Day, therefore, not only commemorates the children but intends to raise awareness of the power forgiveness in healing emotional trauma in the each of our lives.

Forgiveness is a powerful action that can heal us from our own cages of hurt

“This is to also help others who have suffered in a similar way. As well as this, it is a national day of forgiveness where you can find someone you can forgive or ask for forgiveness,” said Mr Abdallah.

“find someone you can forgive”

“We want to show the power of forgiveness and benefits of what it does to a person no matter what they are going through with the psychological benefits to let go of bitterness and rage.” 

Leila Abdallah said that forgiveness is an action for the community. “We grieve individually but we heal together,” she said. 

“Forgiveness isn’t just important for us but for everyone.”

Mrs Abdallah encouraged everyone to begin with small acts of forgiveness with loved ones.

“Forgiveness is like going to the gym. The more you train the stronger your muscle becomes. Exercise it in small doses. If you can forgive in the little things then you can forgive in the big things”. 

Veronique’s mother Bridget Sakr, said “I hope people can reflect on what so tragically happened to our beautiful children to mend bridges with estranged family members and move forward, to love each other in peace and harmony. Life is too precious.” 

Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said that while grieving is a normal part of life, when a tragedy such as this occurs the impact on the family is profound.

A young girl pauses near flowers placed at the scene where seven children were hit on a footpath by a four-wheel drive in the Sydney suburb of Oatlands, Sunday, February 2, 2020. PHOTO: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

“The grief experienced can take many forms and there is no set timeline. For some people a psychologist or grief and trauma therapist may be of assistance and the need for this may occur months or years after the event,” Ms Taylor said. 

“For some people where the loss has occurred through trauma, forgiveness may play a healing role as part of the grieving process. The [Sakr and Abdallah] families have shown amazing strength through such a terrible tragedy.” 

Both families intend to hold i4Give Day and to be held every year on the anniversary of the deaths in memory of their children.

Archbishop Tarabay spoke of the importance of taking responsibility for oneself and others at the first anniversary Mass for Veronique Sakr. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others. The more you practice the better you become at it and it allows you to live peacefully and to heal. Forgiveness is more for the forgiver than the forgiven,” said the Abdallahs.

The i4Give website, is a NSW Government supported website with tools to help people in grief to access emotional support and trauma counselling. 

Around the commemoration, people across NSW are encouraged to search their heart and find someone to forgive. 

To find out more or to participate visit www.i4give.com