New national day to find the freedom in forgiveness
The Abdallah family launch initiative on anniversary of children’s death
One year on from the death of three of their children due to a drunk driver, Leila and Danny Abdallah have created i4Give Day as an annual time of letting go.
“We thought that it’s really nice to honour God and our kids by turning the day of their incident – of when the accident happened – to a forgiveness day,” said Leila Abdallah about February 1 transforming into the new national day of promoting forgiveness.
“Instead of being remembered as the day of the tragedy, it can be remembered as the ‘I forgive’ day.
“I strongly encourage everyone on i4Give Day to stop, reflect and search their hearts.”
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Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah were killed on February 1, 2020, when a drunk driver crashed into their bikes as they rode to get ice creams in Oatlands, near Parramatta, Sydney. Also killed was their cousin, Veronique Sakr.
Within what seemed like hours of the death of their children, Leila and Danny were notable for extending forgiveness that flowed from their Christian faith.
Family members, neighbours, media workers and total strangers – either in person, or online – reached out to the Abdallahs. It was as if their modelling of forgiveness was a siren call to anyone hurt, grieving or angry.
“After the kids’ incident happened, and the media approached me and they mentioned the driver, I just mentioned that in my heart I forgive him but I want the court to be fair,” remembers Leila this week.
“People were touched by what I said. They stopped and searched their hearts …”
“A lot of people have shared their stories with me.”
The i4Give Day initiative is supported by state and federal governments, and the Abdallahs hope people will share stories of forgiveness on social media on Monday.
Resources for pursuing forgiveness can be found on the official site here.
Part of the Maronite Catholic community in Sydney, the Abdallahs’ strength, dignity and compassion through tragedy continues to surprise many. But not Leila, who feels “blessed” that God could use their display of forgiveness as a signpost to the forgiveness that he offers to everyone in Jesus Christ.
“It came very naturally to us because we had been practising it all of our lives,” said Leila about forgiving the man who killed her children.
“Before, Danny and I had prayed together that God would bless us with forgiveness all our lives.
“It’s like when you go to a gym – the more you practice and train, the stronger you become. Forgiveness is like that when you practice on a daily basis and it gets magnified when you are put in a situation similar to us.”
Also on February 1, Bettington Road in Oatlands – where the children died last year – will be closed from 7pm for a time of prayer and community connection. Leila also tells Eternity that local churches will be preaching on forgiveness this weekend.
“It’s a day when you stand up, you speak how you feel and you reconcile with others,” says Leila about February 1.
“Because Jesus’ last words on the cross were ‘Forgive them Father for they do not know what they are doing.’ Some people are not aware of what they do to each other and they are hurting each other.”
“Is it worth it to spend your life in hatred and bitterness, instead of talking with each other?”