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Former PM Scott Morrison praises Maronites for their faith at 14Give gala and book launch

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Former prime minister Scott Morrison with wife Jenny and Leila and Danny Abdallah at the 14Give gala dinner and launch of Plans for Your Good. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Former prime minister Scott Morrison has praised Sydney’s Maronite Catholic community for its “inseparable” faith and culture, the day after thousands welcomed relics of St Charbel to the Punchbowl parish of the same name.

Speaking to The Catholic Weekly at the first i4Give fundraising dinner held in Oatlands on 9 May, Morrison said he was unaware of the faith devotion event which had closed several southwestern Sydney streets, but was encouraged by the young Maronites he knew with faith that is “not just ritual.”

About 400 people, many of them Maronites, attended the gala event which coincided with a launch of Morrison’s religious memoir Plans for Your Good.

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i4Give co-founder Danny Abdallah opened the evening by quoting words from Pope Francis on the power of forgiveness.

Although he now speaks with Samuel Davidson, the driver who ran over Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah and their cousin Veronique Sakr, Mr Abdallah said he still carries “one of the heaviest crosses a father could carry”.

Jenny Morrison and Leila Abdallah share the story of their friendship at the i4Give gala dinner. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

But he said he and his wife Leila’s friendship with the Morrison family, which grew after they attended the children’s funeral, had been a source of support.

Along with the Morrison family other guests included former prime minister John Howard and Maronite Bishop of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania Charbel-Antoine Tarabay.

Morrison said he wrote the book to help other Christians living their faith in an increasingly secular society.

He told The Catholic Weekly it was “wonderful” to bring the two events together.

“The book ultimately ends with the story about Danny and Leila and their forgiveness, it all leads to this point, and what they did. And so it’s nice to do this with them, it wouldn’t feel right otherwise,” Morrison said.

“The wonderful thing about our relationship is that I come from an evangelical background, they come from a Catholic Maronite background, but our faith connection was immediate.

“Their [Maronite] culture and history are inseparable from their faith, and over centuries they can tell many stories of everything falling apart and the only mainstay in their life is their faith.

Bridget Sakr and her son Michael at the i4Give gala dinner and launch of Plans for Your Good. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“I see it in their young people such as Michael Sakr [brother of Veronique], who is one of the most beautiful young men you could ever hope to meet, a gentleman, and the authenticity of his faith which is real. It’s not just ritual.

“I’ve always warmed to that and that’s why I love this community so much. I’m not going to change my name to [Scott] Maroun but if I could change it to anything it would be that.”

The event was held metres from the Bettington Road memorial garden for the four children.

In her speech, Mrs Abdallah said Davidson, who has become a Christian while in custody, had been praying for its success.

The i4Give Day and i4Give Foundation were launched on 1 February 2021, the first anniversary of the children’s entrance into eternal life.

Mr Abdallah said he hoped the day, already a nationally-recognised day to promote forgiveness, would become an international movement.

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