157 people were killed in an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Sunday, 10 March, which includes a priest, a religious sister, and four staff members with Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
According to Fides News Agency, Father George Kageche Mukua CMM, a member of the Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries was a passenger on the flight. Sr. Florence Wangari, a Notre Dame de Angers Sister in her early 30s, was also on board, on her way to Nairobi.
Fr. Mukua, a native of Nairobi, carried out his ministry in Rome while Sister Wangari was a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The nun was originally from the diocese of Nakuru and was returning to Kenya to renew her passport.
The four members of the CRS (Sara Chalachew, Getnet Alemayehu, Sintayehu Aymeku, and Mulusew Alemu) were traveling to Nairobi to attend a training course.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to the Most Reverend Gregory John Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, who serves as the chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services. The letter said:
“It was with great sadness that I learned of the deaths of four of our esteemed colleagues from Catholic Relief Services who were on the airplane that crashed on Sunday, March 10, 2019.
“I, along with my brother bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, join together with the entire CRS family, especially CRS Ethiopia and our EARO colleagues, in mourning the tragic loss of Sara Chalachew, Getnet Alemayehu, Sintayehu Aymeku, and Mulusew Alemu. Their service to the poor and their accompaniment of the marginalized stand as a great witness to Christ and His love for us all.
“Please know that I have asked all our brother bishops here in the United States to pray for the repose of the souls of Sara, Getnet, Sintayehu, and Mulusew, and we will especially do so at the upcoming meeting of the USCCB Administrative Committee this week. May the consolation of the Savior’s embrace be now a source of comfort to their loved ones and co-workers on this difficult and painful day.”
157 passengers were killed, of whom 149 came from 35 countries. These include at least 35 humanitarian operators, members of peacekeeping forces or personnel from international organizations. The crash of flight 302 has been defined by the UN “the most serious commercial plane crash that has involved the UN staff in recent decades”.
Such a high number of victims among the operators of international development organizations is due to the fact that Addis Ababa and Nairobi are major hubs among worldwide agencies serving poor and marginalized people, refugees and migrants.