The father of one of the schoolboys who died in a horrifying accident in Sydney, Australia, this week has made the ultimate act of forgiveness, saying he wanted to meet the woman who killed his son to show he bears no ill will.
Eight-year-old Jihad Darwiche was killed alongside another eight-year-old boy after a car driven by Maha Al-Shennag careened into his classroom, possibly while she was reaching for a water bottle in the footwell of her driving seat. Al-Shennag, the 52-year-old mother of pupils at the school in south-western Sydney, has been charged with numerous counts of dangerous and negligent driving.
Three girls in the classroom were injured in the accident.
Jihad, whose name means ‘struggle’ or ‘effort’ in Arabic, was buried in front of more than 300 mourners at a mosque in Lakemba on Thursday. On the way to the cemetery where his son was to be buried, Jihad’s father Raed Darwiche recorded a video, in which he speaks in Arabic while his friend Ahmad Hraichie translates.
Hraichie posted the video on Facebook, with the message: “This is the true example of patience when a tribulation affects your life”.
In the video, with his son’s casket sitting behind him, Darwiche says what happened was a tragic accident and honest mistake that could’ve happened to anyone.
“We don’t throw the world down on our brothers and sisters when an accident happens,” he says. “We forgive.”
Speaking of Al-Shennag, who was known as a keen parent volunteer at the school, he says, “She is welcome to come sit with the family, have a meal and talk about how they can move forward.”
Alluding to the abuse that had been directed toward Al-Shennag and the school, Darwiche called for it to stop, saying that his son’s death was “the will of the creator”.
“The threats to the lady and abuse is not from them, no retaliation is coming from the family of the boy … They have forgiven, if anything, they want to sit with this lady and talk with her and tell her we forgive you,” Hraichie translates, adding that “this is how a proper Muslim acts in a time of calamity”.
The men also praise the police for pulling out all the stops to honour Jihad with an escort to the cemetery. Car horns blowing to acknowledge the funeral cortege can be heard in the background of the video.
Newspapers who reported on the video said that the family had given permission for their son to be identified. He is also identified publicly on the video. The other children involved in the incident haven’t been publicly named.
The video’s been viewed almost 180,000 times on Facebook, with viewers leaving almost 4,000 comments and sharing it 3,400 times.