The MH17 Shoot Down: A Year After

July 18, 2015

For many July is a time of joyful vacations; for some July is — and always will be — a time of mourning.

A year after the shoot down of Malaysian airline Flight 17 over Ukraine, family members and friends in the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Philippines, Canada, and New Zealand mourn the loss of their loved ones.

Their grievous pain is also ours. Ukrainians in the Donbas and throughout the country as well as those residing in the homelands of the victims remember and pray for the everlasting repose of those, whose summer travel, whose very lives were murderously interrupted.

Dear friends, you are not alone. You are not alone in suffering or in sorrow. Millions of Ukrainians losing relatives, friends, and countrymen daily are with you in spirit.

They stand with you in solidarity demanding justice and yearning for peace.

Better than most, they understand the deep meaning of the sacrifice exacted over the fields near Torez, Donetsk region one year ago.

An awful truth has emerged in the last twelve months.

Thousands had already been killed as a result of Russian aggression in Ukraine. The danger of expanded invasion was growing, yet the international reaction was indecisive and ineffectual.

Then came the devastating images of July 17.

In the subsequent weeks and months it became clear that the senseless murder of 298 MH17passengers ultimately saved countless lives. It is perhaps of little solace for the families and friends of the victims, but it is an undeniable fact — their deaths had a profound impact. Only after this unspeakable tragedy did the international community take more serious measures to slow down the advance of Putin’s invasion. Slow down but not stop.

And so, hundreds of lives were lost but thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, were undoubtedly saved.

Ukraine has been traumatized by the ruthlessness of its own — later ousted — government, the annexation of its territory, foreign aggression, and war. Five, ten, twenty, and more persons (reported or unreported) are killed or die of their injuries daily. Day in, day out.

Ukraine has suffered terrorist attack on the scale of the Charlie Hebdo massacre on a daily basis for more than a year: 7000 killed according to official statistics. In fact there are many more; 1,8 million refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons); tens of thousands injured and maimed, paralysed, without legs, arms, eyes. Hundreds of thousands suffer from post-traumatic shock. The entire economy, i.e. the livelihood, of a country of 45 million, has been deliberately crippled…How long can the people endure? How many more lives will be destroyed? How many more millions of Europeans will be forced to flee their homes and their homeland?

And yet it would have been much worse if not for a criminal shoot down of MH17 resulting in the heartless killing of 298 innocent summer travelers who paid the ultimate price for the world’s awakening.

Could the world have awaken sooner and prevented this and other terrorist acts that continue to occur every day in Ukraine, in the Middle East, and throughout the world?

Are such sacrifices necessary to make societies and their political leaders respond to unspeakable human suffering? Why is injustice tolerated when we know the facts and we have means to stop massacres large and small? Why is the response to humanitarian crises so feeble? Standing before such tragedies, we ask the Lord: Help us to be better stewards of the freedom that you give us. Help us choose the good, the generous, the humble, the poor and suffering. Help us reject violence, aggression, self-aggrandisement and hate. Help us foster reconciliation, seek justice and truth, forgive and heal. Give us courage to act, to stop the carnage current in Ukraine and in so many countries today.

It is in prayer and deep reflection that we remember the victims of July 17, embrace their families, and hope that lessons will be learnt, that our moral fortitude will be forged. May the memory of all victims of war in Ukraine and violence in the world be eternal. May they rest in peace. May peace come to us. May we become its makers.

Bishop Borys Gudziak

Eparch of Paris for Ukrainian Catholics in France Benelux and Switzerland

President of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv


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