‘Say Sorry Day’ falls on 5 September. Fabian Dicom implores Malaysians to be messengers of peace and harmony and support all efforts at reconciliation and reparation.
And yet another tragedy befalls our human family. The senseless action by one man has robbed the precious lives of innocent victims whose only aim was to delight in another culture, cross boundaries, make new friends. Instead, what began as an adventure ended in tragedy, an irreparable rupture, the most precious of all things human – the gift of life – mercilessly extinguished in a blink of an eye.
The killing of the tourists from Hong Kong by Rolando Mendoza in the Philippines has brought so much pain and sadness; it has aroused anger, hatred, suspicion, and it has brought about a fracture in the very fabric of human relationships affecting individuals, families, communities and nations.
How does one respond to this?
How does one make sense of this?
Added to this, the mishandling of the situation by the Philippine authorities, the media and the perceived insensitivities of various quarters have not helped in addressing the shock and sorrow of the victims’ families and the trauma of those who survived the carnage.
We need to put ourselves in the place of those who lost their loved ones and look deep within ourselves to feel the anguish of these families as they are tormented with thoughts of the unimaginable terror their loved ones must have suffered knowing in no uncertain terms how close they were to death. At a time such as this, clichés like ‘you will get over it’ or ‘time will heal….’ are meaningless, even offensive, for truly, this is a time of mourning.
While I believe that different groups of people including the government and related institutions will have to do their part in handling and responding to pleas for peace and cries for justice, I am reminded of the words of Pope John Paul II in his message for the World Day of Peace 2002: there is “no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness”.
In a different context, there are efforts being made to prevent yet another tragedy – the loss of another precious life in the person of Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian from Sabah who, in 2007 at age 18, was arrested for drug trafficking in Singapore and has since been sentenced to death.
In the midst of his trial Vui Kong was filled with regret and remorse and believing that it was not right to lie in court, he changed his plea to guilty and withdrew his appeal. Despite his death sentence, he has changed his life – he advises others to be good and not follow in his footsteps, that his mistake, one which may cost him his life, will be a lesson for all who are on a similar road to destruction.
It is for this reason we believe Vui Kong should be given a second chance. A group comprising individuals and organisations has been formed to take up the cause of pleading for clemency for this young man. And the group, inspired by Vui Kong’s message has initiated the ‘Say Sorry Day’ on 5 September 2010, a day when everyone in Malaysia and beyond is encouraged to seek forgiveness from and grant it to each other.
The word ‘sorry’ is a necessary element in the virtue of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the basis for working towards justice and peace. Forgiveness is the basis for healing and renewal. Forgiveness is the basis for normalisation of human relationships. It is vital for us human beings to be able to forgive and to be able to ask for forgiveness.
Therefore I humbly invite our Filipino sisters and brothers to embrace the spirit of the ‘Say Sorry Day’ by taking various initiatives to convey to the families of the victims and their communities in whatever way you can, that the ordinary Filipino shares in their sorrow.
To all Malaysians, let us show our solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Hong Kong and the Philippines and be messengers of peace and harmony as we support all efforts of reconciliation and reparation.
It is in the darkest hours that a little beam of light is at its brightest – this is the time to break all barriers and reach out with an unconditional and unequivocal “We are sorry”.
Fr Fabian Dicom is a Catholic priest based in Penang