MH17 is one of many disasters to befall Australians – the coast line from Australia's beginnings is littered with ship sinkings and much loss of life. The skies have their disasters and such trauma as Thredbo and Granville to name just two.
The one common thread with all these has been to recover the bodies. This has been followed by Christian services whereby those alive recognise the gravity of the loss of life and demonstrating the value of human life.
Special worship services of commemoration were held after Granville led by the Reverend Dr Gordon Moyes AM the then Superintendent of Wesley Mission whereas after Thredbo a combined churches worship service was held.
Australia being a sea faring nation have had many sea disasters from the earliest of times and still today these are remembered, but always those drowned were gathered along the coast line where the tide bought them in, and given sacred burials.
The philosophical under-girding of such recognition has been the Christian understanding of the intrinsic value of human life that God Himself in human form in Jesus, valued his created beings so highly that he gave His life on the Cross for each and every person.
In this theology which permeates through the national psyche, old and young, big or small, important or ordinary, all are equal in the sight of the Lord and therefore each are given honoured burials, even those not found such as disasters out to sea. Such is the nature of this belief that even the Scriptures speak of the sea giving up their dead.
No one is left unaccounted for. Every person has a name. Every name is recorded in the heavenlies. Every person, baby, child, adolescent, teenager, young adult, adult, senior citizen has such an eternal value that Christian communities hold such services. Inevitably these are solemn occasions.
Both Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made a huge effort to illustrate the intrinsic nature of this Christian heritage when MH17 was bought down over Ukraine in July.
Notice these specific outcomes as to the value of human life and respect for the dead. The Security Council following Australia's lead in condemnation of the missile attack on a commercial aircraft. Last week they were brought home.
Australia lead the way with the Dutch (another nation with a similar Christian heritage) for a humanitarian team to go in, pressurising the pro Russian separatists to allow the collection of 'seen bodies' to an air-conditioned morgue train.
Securing the disaster site after many days of negotiations avoiding the war going on nearby between the pro-Russian separatists and the Ukraine military was no small feat. Many solemn and heavy going announcements to the nation were given by our own Prime Minister (that incidentally give rise to the Prime Minister's respect).
The solemn service of retrieval proceeded as the coffins came off the railway wagon, to an air-force plane and then to formal identification at a morgue. The Australian flag was draped over each coffin and each walked with respect to the next stage of delivery.
A message to the nation
All this sent a very direct and potent message to the nation. You are valued to the nation. We as a nation respect your family. We as a nation respect the value of your life. We as a nation respect the part you played as a member of the Australian society – babe, child, adolescent, teenager, young adult, adult, senior citizen.
We heard their names over and over again. Some were internationally acclaimed professors and doctors on their way to an AIDS conference in Melbourne. Some were children travelling with their grand father on a different flight to their parents. One was an only child (young adult daughter). Others were recently retired. One a student of theology at Morling Seminary. The list went on.
They were family members, solid friends to some, well known to others, names to many of us. And all valued. In Christian theology, the core message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, all of intrinsic value in the heavenlies.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html