By: Sharon A Bong
‘To all our visitors, welcome to Malaysia; and to all Malaysians, welcome home’.
This is a familiar greeting to those who have flown with Malaysia Airlines and safely arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Welcome home. The greeting is heart-warming because it prefaces the sweet anticipation of being reunited with one’s family and friends. But it is also heart-warming because it offers the sweet promise of being united with one’s neighbours and strangers. For that fleeting moment – on being welcomed home – I am home, as an ethnic and religious minority in the heartland of Malaysia. Then reality – in the form of ethnic and religious tensions and strife – bites back. I am home.
MH17 remains, welcome home. The nation in mourning on 22 August accorded the fallen, crew and passenger alike, a stately homecoming. The nation of 28 million was united in mourning as a minute’s silence at 1055 (0255 GMT) was observed for the 20 Malaysians, of 43, whose remains had been identified and flown home. The nation in mourning is united in its grief with other nations who similarly accorded their fallen sons and daughters, a dignified homecoming.
Noteworthy is the Dutch nation who, in according the fallen a hero’s homecoming, regardless of nationality – as the remains were yet identified – is exemplary in its inclusive honouring of victims. The Eindhoven airbase and the town Hilversum afford a temporary home to these victims as they lie not in the open fields of the crash site of a conflict zone exposed, abandoned, pillaged but are given shelter, wait to be named then flown home to rest in peace.
The ‘community of [human]kind’ is premised on the ‘exalted dignity’ of the human person who is created ‘to the image of God’ (Gaudium et Spes). These nations that are united in grief embody such a ‘community of [human]kind’ where one mourns the uncanny horror of civilians in the sky shot down from the ground with those who survive them left with little recourse to reparative justice. The dignity of these human persons, robbed in the randomised downing of a civilian aircraft is restored in death through the individuals, families and nations that honour the memory of their lives as grandparents, HIV and AIDS activists and children.
The senselessness of this tragedy is compounded by the purposeful slaughter, terrorisation and displacement of thousands of civilians by those who are hell-bent on, among others, holding onto a home to call one’s own, driving out another from their homes and taking over or destroying another’s home. Until each human person is truly recognised as created ‘to the image of God’ and accorded the dignity that ought to follow from this, homecoming and a home to call one’s own are reserved only in the afterlife.
 AFP (2014) ‘Malaysia in mourning as MH17 remains return home’ in The Telegraph, 22 August 2014, available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/malaysia/11050121/Malaysia-in-mourning-as-MH17-remains-return-home.html. MH17 en route home from Amsterdam was shot down by ‘a suspected surface-to-air missile’ over eastern Ukraine. All 298 on board with 193 Dutch national among them, perished in the tragedy.
 Gaudium et Spes (1965), available at: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html