Dutch pray across bereaved nation for MH17 victims

Dutch pray across bereaved nation for MH17 victims
A Dutch flag is flown at half-mast at the Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, on July 18, 2014, a day after the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in east Ukraine.

THE HAGUE - Churchgoers prayed across the Netherlands on Sunday for the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airways plane crash in Ukraine, most of them Dutch.

"What should have been the ushering in of a wonderful holiday time has become a nightmare," Father Wim van Meijgaarden told the faithful at his church in southern town Meerssen at the start of the school summer holidays.

At least 80 of those killed on flight MH17 were children, while 193 of the dead were Dutch.

The plane crashed in rebel-held eastern Ukraine on Thursday en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, apparently shot out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile.

"A civilian plane has been shot out of the sky by militant movements in Ukraine," Meijgaarden said in the mass broadcast live on Dutch television.

"Our sympathy is with the families and our grief is with those who mourn their loved ones." The priest rejected widespread calls on social media for revenge against those who brought down the plane.

"What is now more important: getting revenge on the culprits or thinking about the victims and their relatives?" he said.

Some churches have lit 298 candles in memory of the dead, and vicar Jochem Stuiver said that lighting a candle could help overcome feelings of grief and powerlessness.

"I don't think that you can defeat darkness by doing even darker things, but by bringing some light into the grief and supporting each other," he said in Maarssen, outside the central city of Utrecht.

The head of the Dutch Bishops Conference, Cardinal Wim Eijk, called last week for the faithful to do what they could to help the bereaved, and to pray for them on Sunday.

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