The ill-fated AirAsia QZ8501 flight which crashed on Sunday claimed 41 members of a church in Surabaya, the Singapore Straits Times reported, as passengers' families and relatives wait for the on-going search in the Java Sea to yield the remains of their loved ones.
Many of the 155 passengers on board the Airbus airliner that disappeared last Sunday halfway from the Indonesian city to Singapore were Indonesian Christians of Chinese descent, it said.
Citing various reports, the daily said 41 passengers had been congregants of Surabaya's Mawar Sharon Church, one of the largest in Asia with about 30,000 members and satellite churches all over Indonesia.
The church's pastor Philip Mantofa told relatives not to waver in their faith despite the tragedy.
"Some things do not make sense to us but God is bigger than all this," Mantofa was quoted by UK's Daily Mail as saying.
Many of the church's members were frequent holiday makers in Singapore, the Straits Times quotes the Christian Examiner website.
Another congregation, Bethany Church, lost at least five people to the tragedy, according to the New York Times, who cited information from church leaders who had seen the passenger list that was released last Sunday.
The church's Pastor Deddy told the US newspaper that the crash was a tragedy for all of Indonesia.
"We can guess from the names that many are Christian and Chinese," he was quoted as saying.
Although the republic has a strong Muslim population, Christians form 10% of Surabaya's population.
Last Monday, South Korea's foreign ministry confirmed that there were three Koreans on the ill-fated flight, a young family of Christian missionaries.
Park Seong Beom, 37, and his wife Lee Kyung Hwa, 36, together with their 11-month old daughter Park Yu Na, were headed to Singapore to renew their visas.
Flight QZ8501 went missing while flying from Surabaya to Singapore on Sunday. It left the Juanda International Airport at 5.20am Indonesian time and was due to land at the Changi International Airport at 8.30am Singapore time.
It is now believed that the flight got into trouble after it experienced bad turbulence and went down near Belitung island.
Search and recovery operations are now ongoing in the Karimata Strait, southwest of Kalimantan on Borneo island, where the Airbus A320 is believed to have crashed.
The flight was carrying 155 passengers on board, including 16 children and one infant.
The passengers comprise 149 Indonesians, three South Koreans, one Singaporean, one Malaysian and one Briton.
To date, six bodies have been recovered and one victim, Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, has been identified, and buried yesterday evening. – January 2, 2015.