.- Following Wednesday's crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, both religious and political leaders from around the world are offering up prayers, and searching for answers about the tragedy.
“Our entire Church prays for the eternal repose of the souls of the innocently killed,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Kyiv-Halyc said in a July 18 statement.
The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church stated that the “tragedy has revealed that evil… is a real threat to peace and security of the whole world,” and prayed for peace and consolation both for “Ukraine and for the entire world.”
“We remain united in our prayers with the families of the deceased and with all those suffering due to this tragedy,” he stressed.
On July 17, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian-Ukrainian border. The have been no signs of survivors of the flight, which was carrying 298 people, among the wreckage.
An estimated 100 victims were HIV/AIDS delegates, including prominent AIDS researcher Joep Lange, on their way to a conference in Melbourne, Australia.
Also among the dead was Sister Philomene Tiernan, an Australian member of the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart and a teacher at Kincoppal-Rose Bay Catholic School.
The plane was flying over Ukraine's Donetsk region when it was shot down, and crashed. The region is home to the pro-Russian separatist organization the Donetsk People's Republic, which is rebelling against the Ukrainian government and army in the wake of earlier unrest in the region.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko called the crash an act of “terrorism” and pledged that those responsible for the attack “will be held responsible.”
The Ukrainian government also released a statement saying that the plane was shut down by Soviet-era “Russian air defence systems” used by pro-Russian separatists. Ukrainian intelligence also have intercepted a phone call allegedly between a separatist leader and a Russian security officer, though the veracity of the call has not yet been verified.
Russian president Vladimir Putin offered his “condolences to the bereaved families” and the home countries of the victims of what he called a “terrible tragedy,” but blamed Ukraine for the event, saying the country “over whose territory it happened is responsible”.
He acknowledged that “renewed hostilities in the south-east of Ukraine” were responsible for the event, and that “this tragedy would not have happened if there was peace on this earth.” Putin stated that the Russian government would support investigations into the crash.
U.S. vice president Joe Biden said in a July 17 statement that the crash was “not an accident,” as the plane was “blown out of the sky” by a surface-to-air missile, according to U.S. intelligence, though officials have yet to conclusively identify the source.
U.S president Barack Obama echoed Biden's observations, saying their "thoughts and prayers are with all of the families of the passengers, wherever they may call home.”
On July 18, during a news conference on the topic, the president added that the crash is a “wake-up call for Europe,” saying that “outrageous event underscores it's time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine.”
Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai called the attack an “outrage against human decency.” Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak pledged that a Malaysian disaster assistance team would be dispatched to the area and that “no stone will be left unturned” in bringing those responsible to justice.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those on board the flight,” Razak concluded. “I cannot imagine what they must be going through at this painful time.”
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands commented that he was “deeply saddened by this horrible news” and that his country’s “thoughts go to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims.”
Bishop Jozef Point of Haarlem-Amsterdam expressed the diocese’s prayers and condolences to the families of the victims, and invited “all believers to pray for the victims and their families,” particularly at a Mass Sunday at the Cathedral to be held in honor of the victims.
Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht also assured families that his archdioceses was praying “for the repose of the people involved in this tragedy,” saying that for loved ones of the deceased “a time of great uncertainty and mourning has come.”
Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas tweeted July 18 asking his followers to “Please keep in your prayers those affected by the tragedy of the Malaysia Airlines plane disaster. Have mercy on them, Lord.”
The Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur expressed their sorrow over the crash in a blog post asking mourners to turn to God rather than revenge, anger, or blame.
The diocese prayed that those responsible may gain a “profound understanding for the evil of their actions,” and seek forgiveness from God, that God may give the families of victims “consolation in their mourning,” and that the victims themselves may find eternal rest and peace in God.