March 8, 2014. The world was jolted from its usual stupor when the news broke of a Malaysian Airlines flight, MH370, mysteriously disappearing. At the time of writing this blog, the world still has no news of the aircraft and the ultimate fate of its passengers and crew. Or, what caused the aircraft to disappear without a trace.
July 17, 2014. Barely 4 months later, the world was jolted again with the news of another Malaysian Airlines flight, MH17, crashing in Ukraine. This time it became quickly clear that the aircraft had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile.
Fact is when Malaysia Airlines’ MH17 was shot down, an Air India flight and a Singapore Airlines flight were both just about 25 to 50 nautical miles (40 to 80 km) behind the ill-fated Malaysian Boeing 777. Yet, as fate would have it, the missile brought down a Malaysian Airlines plane.
Since I heard the news last night, I have been distressed. For one, I am appalled by the thought that a civilian aircraft has been caught in the cross hairs of a war. And that too, an aircraft filled with trusting, innocent people never dreaming that their plane could be shot down by a missile.
The despair I feel deepens when I think of a small, friendly nation like Malaysia going through such a devastating double whammy. I have close friends in Kuala Lumpur and so, have visited Malaysia often. Right from the first time I visited, I have loved Malaysia and its people. The land for its lush greenery and beautiful coastline. The people because they are so simple, open and friendly that you can’t help but warm up to them.
Then why is it that such a nation is being made to go through such trauma? This is the question that arose, almost simultaneously, in my mind and that of my friend in Kuala Lumpur. She sent me a WhatsApp. That’s how I know we were wondering the same thing. Her exact message was, “For some strange reason, a quiet country like Malaysia has been pinpointed by the Universe for attention.”
Obviously, there are other people who are feeling the same way. I came across many tweets expressing the same sentiment. A tweet from @aaron_aqip says, “Belum lagi pulih dari trauma #MH370 dan ekarang #MH17 . Now all eyes on Malaysia. Ya Allah, besar sungguh ujian Mu ini. (We have not recovered from the MH370 trauma and now MH17. Now all eyes on Malaysia. Allah, so great is your test).”
Marion Caunter (TV host and personality) tweeted, “Why Malaysia? Oh god, this is just too sad…. Too sad.. My heart breaks for the passengers and their families. My heart breaks for Malaysia… “
My heart breaks too. As it has many times when I think about the amount of suffering endured by innocent women, children and families in strife torn areas such as Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Syria. My heart breaks each time I think of Malala Yousafzai, even while saluting her for her courage. My heart breaks because a young girl like that should never have been made to face such terror.
The heartbreak I feel has often led me into a silent prayer beseeching the Universe to help all the innocent people out there who didn’t ask for the strife but are nevertheless the ones paying a steep price for someone else’s ambitions or purported ideology.
Today, my heart breaks for Malaysia. And Khuda Gawah, I pray that the steep price Malaysia is paying, for no fault of its own, will serve to bring the world to its senses that war and terror can conflagrate to a point that it starts consuming everything in its path. Including peace loving people and nations that have kept away from conflicts.
Khuda is also Gawah that I pray that Malaysia will come out of this tragedy braver and more peace loving. And never allow voices of dissent to tear apart its friendly fabric. I say this because recently, there have been signs of trouble within Malaysia from protests over a priest using the word Allah in his church to movements in pockets to impose Shariah law.
Today, I pray that Malaysia and its people will realise that they are not alone in this hour of grief. Of the 283 passengers and 15 crew, the majority were nationalities from 10 other countries. One report says of these passengers, a horrifying 80 were children. All these souls died together. Let their death not be in vain. Let their passing from this earth serve to make Malaysians resolve that they will not allow voices of dissent to tear apart a peaceful country.
Perhaps this is the test Allah is placing before the people of Malaysia.
*Khuda Gawah means As God is my witness
Featured Image Credit: Penang Coastline by Lata Subramanian