Vigils held in malls, churches, mosques

People attending a memorial service for the passengers of Flight MH17, at Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

FROM shopping malls to houses of worship, both secular and religious groups have come together in Kuala Lumpur since last Friday to mourn those who perished in the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH17 crash, just four months after the disappearance of Flight MH370.

More than a hundred Buddhist devotees and members of the public turned up for a memorial service at Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple in Jalan Sentul yesterday morning, which also kicked off a fortnight of daily evening prayers at the temple.

The event saw the chanting of sutras led by Venerable Sri Saranankara Nayaka Maha Thera, Chief High Priest of the Judiciary of Malaysia, and Buddhist rites to honour the dead.

The Buddhist rites follow vigils, memorial services and prayers that have been held in churches, mosques and even shopping malls in the country's capital, including a candlelight vigil near Merdeka Square last night.

Graphic designer Rachel Wong, who attended the Buddhist prayer session with a friend, said she was still shocked by the crash of MH17 in eastern Ukraine.

"A tragedy like this shouldn't have happened, and it is far too soon after MH370 disappeared," said the 27-year-old.

"This new tragedy is something I'm not willing to accept, but I have to because it is a fact."

Many others, like chef Nihal Wijeysiviwardena, attended the event with their families. The temple devotee said he took the day off to attend the memorial.

"My boss understood why I needed to come," said Mr Wijeysiviwardena, 50. "We can't do anything else, but we can pray for (the passengers)."

Venerable Sri Saranankara, 60, said he felt personally affected by the two MAS disasters because some of the airline's personnel had been regular volunteers in the temple's charity projects for the past 12 years.

"We don't know if there were any volunteers who were crew members on MH17, but there was one volunteer who was on MH370," he added.

The volunteers belonged to a self-help group called Welkins MH (for "wellness" and "kinship").

An MAS employee, who declined to be named, said the group consists of MAS cabin crew and was started so that crew members based in various Malaysian cities could quickly assist one another - such as during an emergency - rather than wait for help from the head office in Kuala Lumpur.

Among the group's self-help efforts was the raising of more than RM40,000 (S$15,600) during Japan's tsunami disaster in 2011 to help 20 affected Japanese cabin crew members.

The group has about 500 core volunteers who help organise charity and developmental events for some 3,600 MAS cabin crew members.

This article was first published on July 21, 2014.
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