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Sydney couple Danny and Leila Abdallah are hoping to inspire people of faith across Australia through a dedicated community event, i4give Week (1-7 February), drawing upon their powerful witness to the love of Christ in forgiving a drunk and drugged driver who killed their children nearly two years ago.

Siblings Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah and their cousin Veronique Sakr were killed on 1 February 2020 when an out- of-control ute mounted the footpath while they were walking to a shop to buy ice cream, close to their home at Oatlands in Sydney’s north-west.

The Abdallahs have invited faith communities to support i4Give Week. In the spirit of Jesus prayer for unity (John 17:21), the special event will feature i4Give Sunday (6 February), aimed at engaging all Christian churches in a shared embrace of the Christ-centered call to forgiveness and its power to heal and restore broken relationships, starting within and among churches and going out from there into the wider community.

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Danny and Leila Abdallah have told The Catholic Weekly, they have been personally overwhelmed by the strong support they have received for the initiative, with members of the Jewish and Muslim community coming forward to also support i4Give prayers during their services that week.

“Forgiveness and love are at the centre of our Christian faith”, explained Leila who is expecting her seventh child in March.

“Danny Abdallah said i4Give Day … has been an opportunity for his family to publicly share how important forgiveness is in the healing process after any personal tragedy.”

“Through i4Give Week, we want everyone around the world to understand the power of forgiveness, love and patience and then may the Holy Spirit touch everyone’s hearts with that message”.

It’s a message which is resonating well beyond church pews with the National Rugby League hosting an I4Give Cup match between the Parramatta Eels and the Canterbury Bulldogs.

Catholic, Anglican and Pentecostal church leaders will be speaking about the healing power of forgiveness on i4give Sunday on 6 February, Jewish leaders will also do so in synagogues on i4Give Sabbath on 4 and 5 February and imams in the Muslim community will lead i4Give Friday prayers on 4 February.

Danny Abdallah said i4Give Day, now in its second year, has been an opportunity for his family to publicly share how important forgiveness is in the healing process after any personal tragedy.

“We’re hoping that what we did will inspire others”, Danny explained.

Mother of the Year Leila with Danny Abdallah and their children Liana, Alex and Michael in their home in Sydney. Also pictured are Antony, Angelina and Sienna in the photo in the background. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“We’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice, losing half our family. Yet as Catholics, we are taught to offer up our suffering to Christ on the Cross. We know that this life is not going to be better than the next life”, he added.

“My kids are with Christ. My kids are saints: they’re in heaven. As a father, that’s the only thing I wanted to do: to get my kids to heaven,” he said. “I cry all the time. I go to the cemetery and I miss my kids, but I’ll be reunited with them. Everyday is a day closer to that reunion. They’re not behind me, they’re in front of me”.

“What I’ve learned about forgiveness is that it takes more courage as a man to forgive than it is to seek revenge”.

“”I understand now that when you do forgive, you leave bitterness, anger and all those negative emotions behind you and you won’t then pass them on to your children. So forgiveness can be a selfish act as well and you can certainly benefit from it because peace and freedom can come directly from it”.

Leila Abdallah said the family has found great comfort in prayer and regular Mass attendance.

“Turning to the Rosary and my faith in Jesus Christ is ultimately what’s helping me to heal, to forgive and to be the woman I am today”.

“The Eucharist is what gives me the strength to keep going and our faith has taught us the meaning of suffering through Jesus’ death and resurrection”, she said.

“Turning to the Rosary and my faith in Jesus Christ is ultimately what’s helping me to heal, to forgive and to be the woman I am today”.

“Every day- my children are on my mind. I know that Antony would be turning 16- he would be starting to learn to drive, that Angelina would be in Year 9 and Sienna wanted to receive her first holy communion this year”.

“But since we’re able to forgive, our family is healing together and we’re grieving together peacefully. We carry our Cross with dignity, instead of being full of revenge. So our suffering is like a blessing from God since I know I’m going to see my kids in heaven. I just have to be patient and stay devoted to serving Jesus”.

A dedicated website features resources for parents and schools around promoting the message of forgiveness at home and in the classroom setting, as well as practical advice for anyone looking to restore a broken relationship through an act of forgiveness.

Catholic parishes can sign up online to support i4Give Sunday on the website.

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