14 March 2014

Malaysians have turned to their own talents to express both their grief and support for the people on MH370, and their families and friends.

IN the past few days, the shock of the disappearance of MH370 has been overwhelming.
Undoubtedly the families have suffered the greatest shock of all, especially when not even the tiniest explanation (at the time of writing) is forthcoming.
Hopes are built up and then dashed. Theories are put forth but none are yet proven.
Everyone seems to have an opinion regardless of whether they know anything about jet planes or aeronautics.
And let’s not forget those who take opportunity to place blame based on the most outlandish reasons. A bit like when some blamed the Indian Ocean tsunami on people partying on beaches.
The wiser among us keep our own counsel and instead turn our efforts to offering words of comfort to those who are missing their families.
This also includes colleagues of the flight crew who have known them a long time and worked alongside them.
So many people are grieving over this incident, and that’s only on this side.
We don’t even know what’s truly happening among the families of the Chinese passengers, and all the other nationalities involved and what support they might need. (And it occurred to me that our children are also aware of what happened and need some gentle explanations.)
But if anything exemplifies how small a country we are, it is the incredible fact that although there were only 38 Malaysians on MH370, so many people know them either firsthand or secondhand.
I read my Facebook timeline and it was incredible how many people either knew the passengers or crew directly or knew their relatives or someone else close to them.
A colleague reported that the wife of one of the cabin crew is her daughter’s kindergarten teacher. Seems so random but yet not.
Perhaps this is why Malaysians are sharing this shock and grief so keenly.
It’s been hard to read the many sad posts and tweets from family members without imagining that it could have happened to any of us.
As a result, Malaysians have turned to their own talents to express both their grief and support.
So many beautiful images inviting people to pray for MH370 have been created and shared by people on social media. They are invitations to us all to do something together.
Many prayer events of different faiths have been organised for people to pray for the safe return of the plane, crew and passengers.
Several religious groups have gone to KLIA to provide spiritual support to the families.
I think in times like these, nobody is going to be particular about religious territoriality.
A group of citizens calling themselves Malaysians for Malaysia, that has been promoting peace and unity, and which I’m very proud to be part of, decided on a simple initiative called Walls of Hope.
We approached various shopping malls around the Klang Valley to ask if they could put up something where the public can put up messages of hope and support for the families of MH370.
Unsurprisingly the malls agreed almost immediately and got their art departments to design something and put them up at a prominent position on their premises.
Pavilion KL was the first to put up theirs and within an hour, 1,000 people had put messages up.
Fahrenheit 88 followed soon after and they too found the public responding enthusiastically.
At this time of writing, several other malls are organising themselves to do the same and we hope others around the country will do so too.
These walls or trees of hope provide an outlet for Malaysians and foreigners to express their grief but also their hopes and wishes for those on board the flight as well as the families.
Just reading so many heartfelt messages is a moving experience.
But if anything exemplifies how Malaysians are a compassionate and caring people, it is the poem written by a woman called Pnut Syafinaz which I had the privilege of reading out on TV.
To quote from it, in reference to the grieving families of the passengers on MH370:
Jiwa kami dan jiwa mereka tidak sama,
Kami sedih tetapi tidak akan ada yang lebih sedih dari mereka,
Mereka dan kami mungkin bukan sebangsa, seagama,
Tetapi darah kami sama merah pekat warnanya”.
“Our souls and their souls are not the same,
We are sad but can’t be as sad as they,
They and we may not be the same race or religion,
But our blood is all the same red colour.”
And that’s the crux of the matter. Ultimately in times like these, it really doesn’t matter who anyone is, where they came from or what they believed in. Their families and friends all suffer pain just the same.
Let’s continue to pray for MH370.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.