i4Give inspires faith

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Michael Abdallah, above, embraces a framed photograph of his siblings Anthony, Angelina and Sienna and his cousin Veronique who were killed by an alcohol and drug-fuelled driver in Oatlands in February 2020. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Michael Abdallah, above, embraces a framed photograph of his siblings Antony, Angelina and Sienna and his cousin Veronique who were killed by an alcohol and drug-fuelled driver in Oatlands in February 2020. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Maronite Bishop Antoine Tarabay has praised the Abdallah and Sakr families for bringing many Christians back to the practice of their faith through their powerful public witness of their religion following the tragic deaths of their four children 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.

Bishop Tarabay has led an anniversary Mass for the two families at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Harris Park on 1 February.

“Through their testimony, many people have been brought back to the faith.”

The Mass occurred during i4Give Week- An Australian-wide initiative, which this year has united a diverse range of faith groups and community organisations, all drawing inspiration from the powerful example of the two families who have drawn upon their Christian faith to forgive a drunk and drugged driver who killed their children.

Bishop Tarabay said the Abdallah and Sakr families have been powerful public ambassadors for Christ through their actions.

In his homily, Bishop Tarabay compared the public testimony of Leila Abdallah and Bridget Sakr to that of the Good Samaritan woman at the well in John’s Gospel whose actions also helped bring others closer to Christ.

Sydney Anglican Archbishop Kanishka Raffel, Bishop Richard Umbers, Leila and Liana Abdallah and Dr Jen George from the i4Give Foundation mark i4Give week on 6 February. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Sydney Anglican Archbishop Kanishka Raffel, Bishop Richard Umbers, Leila and Liana Abdallah and Dr Jen George from the i4Give Foundation mark i4Give week on 6 February. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“Two very resilient Maronite women, Leila and Bridget, in the example of the Samaritan woman, through this unthinkable and immense tragedy have become witnesses to their faith and witnesses to Jesus Christ”, Bishop Tarabay said.

“Through their testimony, many people have been brought back to the faith. The Abdallah and Sakr families did not want the death of their four children to be the end of the story.

They desired that their death should bring forward good fruits through their example of forgiveness and of hope in the Lord”.

“I don’t know, to be completely honest if I were in your shoes, Danny or Leila, whether I would have the capacity to do what you’ve done.”

“I know the journey since that accident is not the same for the Abdallah and Sakr families.

I have observed their tears and their faith and it is so great to see how much hope and love they have shown to all of us, especially by their firm belief in the promise made that the Lord will wipe every tear from your eyes.”

“May this be the legacy left by the tragic death of these children, that many Australians embraced the Christian faith because of their testimony”.

The Mass at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral was one of many services across Australia during i4Give Week, which also led Jewish and Muslim leaders to preach on the healing power of forgiveness to transform lives.

The President of the Rabbinical Council, Rabbi Yaakov Glasman devoted his sermon at his St Kilda synagogue last Saturday to the inspiring example of Danny and Leila Abdallah.

“I don’t know, to be completely honest if I were in your shoes, Danny or Leila, whether I would have the capacity to do what you’ve done”, Rabbi Glasman said.

“Out of grief and sorrow, rising out of great tragedy, Danny and Leila Abdallah have called on Australians to rediscover forgiveness.”

“The fact that you have forgiven the perpetrator of this terrible crime against your family to me is the ultimate sanctification of God’s name because you have been inspired by your religion and to do that makes you an inspiring ambassador of your faith”.

On i4Give Sunday, over 400 people gathered for an ecumenical service at King’s School in North Parramattta, the school attended by Antony Abdallah and his two brothers, Michael and Alex.

The service was led by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Kanishka Raffel with Bishop Antoine Tarabay representing the Maronite Church and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

Among the special guests attending the service were Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison greets Leila Abdallah and her son Michael at an ecumenical service to mark i4Give Sunday. Photo: Giovanni Portelli.

In his sermon at the service, Archbishop Raffel paid tribute to the Abdullah family, saying they had inspired countless Australians to embrace their message of forgiveness.

“Out of grief and sorrow, rising out of great tragedy, Danny and Leila Abdallah have called on Australians to rediscover forgiveness. Thank you for activating this national conversation about forgiveness and reminding us that forgiveness is a practice for everyone”.

“May this be the legacy left by the tragic death of these children, that many Australians embraced the Christian faith because of their testimony.”

“Forgiveness is rare, beautiful and powerful because we know that our culture has lost touch with the gift and the necessity of forgiveness, but which can indeed set us free from bitterness, from rage and despair that may otherwise consume us”, Archbishop Raffel said.

Leila Abdallah said her willingness to forgive the drunk and drugged driver responsible for the death of her three children was very much guided by her Christian faith.

“i4Give is led by God and the Holy Spirit. It’s much bigger than Danny and I. We know that forgiveness is at the core of our Christian faith. It’s what we live by every day”.

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