WILLMAR, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota man who lost his brother and sister-in-law on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine said Monday that he and his family forgive whoever was responsible.
Drew Ryder, 52, of Willmar, said the 298 victims included his oldest brother, Arjen Ryder, 54, and his wife, Yvonne Ryder, 52, of Albany, Western Australia. He told The Associated Press his family is drawing comfort from their Christian Reformed faith, which teaches forgiveness.
“If we are true to our Christianity we must do that,” Drew Ryder said. “I don’t think we have a choice. Christianity at its very core is about turning the other cheek. If we respond with violence and retribution we are betraying our own faith.”
Ukrainian authorities and Western countries mostly blame pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine for shooting down the plane.
If any good can come of this tragedy, Ryder said, it would be changing the hearts and minds of whoever was involved. He said they believe that good ultimately overcomes evil.
Arjen Ryder worked for the Western Australia Department of Agriculture for 30 years and was due to receive an award for his service Monday, while Yvonne Ryder was a preschool teacher, Drew Ryder said. The couple had three children.
“He did a lot of very important research onto what’s called soil salinity,” Drew Ryder said. “We have a lot of areas there that have become desert because of salt coming up in the water table.”
Yvonne Ryder doted on children, he said.
“That was one of her passions in life, to work with kids,” he said.
Ryder said his parents emigrated after World War II from the Netherlands to Australia, where he and all his siblings were born. Arjen and Yvonne Ryder were on their way home from a visit with relatives in the Netherlands and a side trip to France when their flight from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur was shot down Thursday.
Drew Ryder eventually settled in the west-central Minnesota city of Willmar, where he’s president and a founder of Feedlogic Corp., which makes automated livestock feeding systems and other technology to help farmers manage their operations more efficiently. He said he’s an Australian citizen with permanent resident status in the U.S. He’s married to a Canadian and they have three American children who were born in the U.S.
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