Danny and Leila Abdallah are the parents of an Australian family with Lebanese roots. On February 1, 2020, her life changed forever. While out for a walk, a drunk, drug-addicted motorist hit four of their six children and three of their cousins. Three of the children and one of their cousins died instantly. Her fourth daughter Liana was injured and taken to hospital. To this day, the family struggles with the deep trauma that the tragedy left in their hearts. At the World Family Meeting in Rome, the couple, who have since had another daughter, talk about their path from unimaginable suffering to forgiveness.
When Danny arrived at the scene of the accident and saw the broken bodies of his children, he said to God, “This is greater than me, I give it to you.” The day after the accident, Leila returned to the scene of the accident, stunned and full of grief, to pray for the seven children involved in the accident. She gave the attending media representatives a message that kept the media busy for weeks. Referring to the man who killed her children, she said: “I do not hate him, I believe in my heart that I forgive him even though I want the court to be fair.”
It was not the accident itself, she says, that dominated the news at the time, but questions of forgiveness and faith: How can this woman forgive? Why should she forgive the man who drove over seven children? Why should she still have faith? How can she still love the God who did this to her? When asked by media representatives how the family could be helped, she replied: “Come and pray the Crossroads with us at the accident site.” Thereafter, thousands of people came every night until the funeral to pray together.
let go of the bitterness
Looking back, Danny says, “The day my children entered eternal life, I had a choice to make. Which path do I choose? Do I choose the path of destruction or the path of construction? Do I try to numb the pain with drugs?” and alcohol, or do I choose to accept it? ” The pain is unbearable to this day, but he decided not to get stuck with his family in the valley of pain and grief.
“If I have revenge, bitterness and anger in my soul, then my children get it too, because they follow what we do, not what we say,” says the young father. He realized that he had to do for his children what God had done for him. “I serve a God who suffered much before I did. He showed me how to go through the worst suffering and still forgive those who did it to you, ”Danny says, shouting to the congregation,“ Friends, forgiveness is our way to holiness! ”
Forgiveness is also the core message of Christianity to his wife Leila. “These are the last words that Jesus spoke on the cross.” Forgiveness is a decision to let go of anger and bitterness: “There is strength in forgiveness. In forgiveness lies freedom. Forgiveness is a sign of strength, not weakness, ”confesses the mother of seven. She tells how forgiveness started the whole family healing process so that her marriage did not break up because of the trial and her four living children can see the future in meeting with trust in God again.
The couple’s message to the congregation is clear: “Show forgiveness daily. If you want to be able to forgive something big, start by forgiving yourself and your family. Seek God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness of sins in confession. ” Love means loving someone in their imperfection and in their sin and still forgiving them. “We are all called to become saints through love and forgiveness.”
Forgiveness is like a muscle that gets stronger with repeated use. Therefore, it should be an integral part of the life of every Christian family. “We hope and pray that you never have anything so great to give away,” Danny concludes. “But you must prepare for the suffering to come. If we can teach you anything today, it would be to encourage you to pray, practice forgiveness every day, and teach your children to do the same.”
The full testimony of the Abdallah couple can be downloaded in English from the World Meeting of Families website (panel 9: Paths to holiness – Forgiveness as the Way of Holiness).
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