Like many others, I was following the Sydney siege crisis on and off last night through mainstream and social media. When I heard the conclusion this morning, the gunman dead and two hostages killed, the others and a policeman injured, I was numb.
But only at first. It wasn’t until I walked past the Lindt Chocolate shop in Collins Street Melbourne that I stopped and couldn’t walk anymore.It was then that the tragedy was really brought home to me.
For there were flowers. People had put them as a small token of remembrance. For them and now for me, this tragedy wasn’t far away at all. I have lived in Sydney, I know Martin Place, I’ve almost walked into that Lindt chocolate shop. In that moment, I felt I had lost neighbours and friends all at once.
My heart goes out to the those whose lives were so sadly lost, the hostages who were injured and traumatised, their families and loved ones, the police, paramedics, and the rest of us : all of whom were and are involved.
At some stage, all of us in our various ways will deal with the aftermath. But please let it not divide and weaken us as grief and anger can.
We’ve heard and will continue to hear the security implications. Hopefully the Federal Government will show restraint in dealing with this situation and not inflame or exploit it.
We’ve heard that the gunman was subject to superficial bail conditions. That has implications for the N.S.W. legal and judicial system and is best left in time to the community, lawyers, judges and politicians.
We’ve also heard that it was a terrorist act. There were headlines claiming the gunman was linked to Islamic State when in fact he had no such links. The flag displayed was not an Islamic State flag. Sadly this shows the incredible lack of fact checking that pervades our media especially in crisis.
We also heard also about the gunman’s criminal past including being an accessory to murder and possible sexual offences. It was clear from his past that the gunman wasn’t ideologically driven. He committed a criminal act and masked it as a terrorist one.
We’ve also heard that Islam is the problem. Simple statistics save us here. Islam has over one billion followers. Despite its divisions and schisms, most of those billion followers actually aren’t practising terrorism. Funnily enough neither are most Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus,etc. Despite what we may read or hear, the religious extremists are tiny in number. So statistically, Islam or any other religion for that matter isn’t the problem at all. It’s the people that misuse it.
Most importantly, we’ve seen and will continue to see ordinary people pay their respects to those who have lost their lives. We’ve seen ordinary people just reach out and support those who are hurt and injured whether friend or stranger. One example is the amazing solidarity of the #iwillridewithyou and #iwillwalkwithyou campaign which I hope will continue.
This response shows the incredible depth of compassion and strength that a community can provide. To strengthen that heart we all share.