Forgiveness as witness in the face of unimaginable tragedy
The Abdallah tragedy – a story of indescribable forgiveness
Bettington Road, Oatlands is just one minute’s drive from the PeaceWise offices in North Parramatta.
On 1 February, an allegedly drunk driver ran over and killed four children when his car mounted the curb in Bettington Road. Three of these children, Antony, Angelina and Sienna, were from the one family – children of Danny and Leila Abdallah.
Danny and Leila are Maronite Christians. The gift of their forgiveness to the driver in the face of unbearable loss has stunned the world…
The statement from Danny and Leila Abdallah – a radical message of Christian forgiveness
Following these tragic deaths, Danny and Leila released a statement describing their forgiveness of the driver, and how their faith in Jesus was their only hope in the middle of their pain.
They said their “entire world came crumbling down” after last Saturday’s accident “with the senseless loss of three of our six children, Antony, Angelina and Sienna. A fourth child was also killed; our cousin Bridget Sakr’s daughter, Veronique.
“To begin to encapsulate or express the heart wrenching pain and sorrow we are experiencing in this time would require endless words of despair. This is an unimaginable tragedy; unfathomable beyond all description.
“Our children are our reason for living. Bringing them up in accordance with the ways of God, teaching them to love, affording them every opportunity and nurturing them into positive and impacting young men and women was, and is our life’s purpose.
“Each day that passes is a day closer to the day we are reunited with our angels.”
“What is life without your children? How and where do we begin to pick up the pieces so that we may be effective parents to our three remaining angels?
“We start with forgiveness.
“We forgive the driver that killed our innocent children. His actions will be met before the earthly and heavenly judge. We have decided, in our hearts to forgive him – for the sake of our children and more so for Christ’s sake.”
“Our faith in Jesus Christ remains the foundation of our family and we believe it will continue to help us through this difficult time. Each day that passes is a day closer to the day we are reunited with our angels. We will look toward this moment; not backwards at yesterday’s pain.”
“Our life here on earth is but a vapour in comparison to his eternal plans.”
“As we’ve tried to make sense of the past week, the world too has been shaken by this mortifying event. It is our hope that through this, all will know that no matter the pain or despair, God will be a safeguard through this dark valley. He is in control, and eternity sits in the palm of his divine hand. Our life here on earth is but a vapour in comparison to his eternal plans, and the purpose God holds for his children.
“We would like to thank our family, our friends, our community, and so many others from across Australia and the world, for the overwhelming support we have received.
“We are humbled and strengthened by the outpouring of love from each and every one of you. Please continue to join us in prayer during this time. This is a very heavy cross that we’ve been chosen to carry, but it is through God’s love that we keep going.
“May the Peace of God through Jesus Christ be with us all.”
A prayer of reflection
Before you begin… You may wish to read some or all of these passages before or after reading this prayer: Luke 23, 32-34, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, Mark 11:25, Ephesians 4:32, John 13:35, Matthew 18:21-35.
“Dear God, in the face of this unspeakable tragedy, our hearts break for the two families who lost children in this accident.
The expression of forgiveness from Danny and Leila to the driver is shocking to the world,
which struggles to understand this kind of love –
the love that cries from the cross “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Dear Lord, you are all love. You are all kindness, all wisdom. You are the God of all comfort, who comforts us, even so that we may learn to comfort others in their sorrow.
Please help us to learn to be people who forgive. Who forgive deeply, and with a heart of forgiveness that mirrors yours.
Help us even now to reflect on anyone who we have not forgiven, and to forgive that person, from our hearts. For the sake of that person, for the sake of our relationship with them, for the sake of our Christian witness in the world, and for the sake of Christ.
This article was written by Bruce Burgess. Bruce Burgess is the National Director of PeaceWise. He holds degrees in Arts, Law, Christian Studies and Theology. Bruce’s peacemaking work has led him to become involved in teaching and working with schools, workplace disputes, church and para-church based conflict, and victim-offender cases. Bruce has a passion for seeing both adults and kids’ lives transformed by the power of the gospel of peace, for building cultures of peace and for seeing God break through to repair, restore and sustain healthy relationships.