After the Sydney hostage crisis, acts of kindness to counteract the terrorism

sydney.jpgFrom the horror that gripped the city of Sydney in the hostage crisis on December 16th that left two of the captives and the hostage-taker dead, seeds of compassion and solidarity have been sown with the Muslim community. To counter an escalation of anti-Muslim sentiments and fear of repercussions from the siege carried out by an Iranian immigrant brandishing a black flag with Arabic writing, Rachel Jacobs, a young Sydney resident, reached out to her Muslim neighbor. She was riding on a train together with a woman who appeared to be Muslim. “Silently she removes her hijab” (veil), she immediately wrote in a Facebook post. “Tears sprang to my eyes and I was struck by feelings of anger, sadness and bitterness,” she later shared with the newspaper Brisbane Times. “I approached her silently at the train station and I simply offered to walk with her.”

This one act of kindness during a time fraught with tension, has led to an out-pouring of similar gestures of concrete support for the Muslim community on Twitter all over Australia and the world under the hashtag #IllRideWithYou (I’ll ride with you). Tessa Kum who started the campaign on Twitter says she was inspired by Rachel’s experience on social media — offering to ride or walk with those who feel threatened because of their attire. “They should have someone next to them; they should not be alone….we need more of these acts of kindness in the world. Since my invitation to be engaged in reaching out, my phone has not stopped vibrating and I realized it was going well beyond me … people were being helped,” Tessa said.

This social media phenomenon has inspired ordinary people do go out of themselves to combat hostilities and negativity by reaching out to the most vulnerable in this moment. “I was travelling to work on the train,” shared Jack from Sydney, “and I saw an Anglo looking woman approach a Muslim couple (she was wearing a headscarf.) She placed her arm on theirs in a gesture of understanding and walked with them. They were moved to tears ...”
Judy, also from Sydney, says: “I read this and my heart is filled with hope. Surely we can believe again that love is stronger than hate — here we can be pro-active in re-creating peace and harmony in our community…”
The Mayor Ms. Clover Moore reiterated that the identity of this city is “a multi-cultural, inclusive, harmonious city, and having this happen does not change this.”

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney celebrated a Mass in which the Governor-General and Prime Minister of New South Wales were present, among many other political dignitaries. He shared: “….Such a radical challenge to our way of life can be disorienting and harden our hearts. The risk is that we become cynical, suspicious of our neighbors. Or worse, turn on them. In the process we would undermine what we love most about our country and its way of life.”

Elin Anisha Guro, a Muslim from the Philippines, lives in Australia with her husband and children on an international student visa. She has been active in initiatives toward building a more united world for many years through her association with the Focolare Movement: “As the hostage crisis unfolded, I received a message from a friend in Brisbane — a woman whom I have never met. She offered me and my family her support and solidarity and, worried about the backlash that this might have for Muslims in this country, she sent her address and phone number, saying: ‘if you ever need a place to stay, to be safe, come to my home.’ I felt really blessed to be here in Australia in this moment where people are standing up for one another and not allow this incident to disrupt their lives.”


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