5 September 2011

Thimble 42 - Hunyani... In Memory

This weekend was the anniversary of the first of two civilian aircraft brought down by surface-to-air Missiles in Rhodesian (Zimbabwe, Africa) airspace in the 1970s. They were:

Air Rhodesia Flight RH825 Viscount "Hunyani", shot down 3rd Sept 1978
and Flight RH827 Viscount "Umniati", shot down February 12th 1979.

What made the Hunyani different, is the fact that not all the passengers died in the air crash - 18 survived. Some of the survivors, mostly women and children, waited by the crash site while the others went for help...

but help would come too late.

Ten of those waiting by the crash site were shot, and bayoneted, to death by the guerilla troops that found them first. The massacre of those survivors of that air crash will always stand out for me as one of the most appalling acts. To find a message of Peace on an anniversary like this? Yes, it can be done, but not by me. The words I'm choosing for this thimble were spoken in 1978, by the (then) Dean of Salisbury, in his sermon about the Hunyani Disaster. They are as apt today, for any war tragedy, as they were back then...

The Silence is Deafening

Sermon by Very Rev. John da Costa,

'Clergy are usually in the middle, shot at from both sides. It is not an enviable role. Yet times come when it is necessary to speak out, and in direct and forthright terms, like trumpets with unmistakable notes. I believe that this is one such time.

Nobody who holds sacred the dignity of human life can be anything but sickened at the events attending the crash of the Viscount Hunyani. Survivors have the greatest call on the sympathy and assistance of every other human being. The horror of the crash was bad enough, but that this should have been compounded by murder of the most savage and treacherous sort leaves us stunned with disbelief and brings revulsion in the minds of anyone deserving the name "human."

This bestiality, worse than anything in recent history, stinks in the nostrils of Heaven. But are we deafened with the voice of protest from nations which call themselves "civilised"? We are not. Like men in the story of the Good Samaritan, they "pass by, on the other side."

One listens and the silence is deafening.

Who is to be blamed for this ghastly episode?

Like Pontius Pilate, the world may ask "What is truth?" What is to be believed? That depends on what your prejudices will allow you to believe, for then no evidence will convince you otherwise.

So who is to be blamed?

The United Nations and their church equivalent, the WCC. I am sure they both bear blame in this. Each parade a pseudo-morality which, like all half-truths, is more dangerous than the lie direct. From the safety and comfort of New York and Geneva, high moral attitudes can safely be struck. For us in the sweat, the blood, the suffering, it is somewhat different.

Who else? The churches? Oh yes, I fear so.

For too long, too many people have been allowed to call themselves "believers" when they have been nothing of the kind. Those who believe must act. If you believe the car is going to crash, you attempt to get out. If you believe the house is on fire, you try to get help and move things quickly. If you believe a child has drunk poison, you rush him to the doctor. Belief must bring about action.

Had we, who claim to love God, shown more real love and understanding, more patience, more trust of others, the churches would not be vilified as they are today. I have nothing but sympathy with those who are here today and whose grief we share. I have nothing but revulsion for the less-than-human act of murder which has so horrified us all.

I have nothing but amazement at the silence of so many of the political leaders of the world. I have nothing but sadness that our churches have failed so badly to practise what we preach. May God forgive us all, and may he bring all those who died so suddenly and unprepared into the light of His glorious presence.


You can find the full download of that sermon, and photos of the memorial, here on this web page.


  1. Oh, Michelle, I so remember this. I was there and hear that sermon! I also dealt with those who grieved. Yes, it is hard to forget, and to learn forgiveness.

  2. Oh Jacqui

    :-( Big (((hug))) in sympathy


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Can one everyday person really make a difference and change the world? Isn't that a bit like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble?

Maybe... but what if you got everyone to help you?
What if we bailed with a billion thimbles?

These are my Thimblefuls for Peace... I hope they make you think.