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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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