My wife told me about the Sydney cafe siege yesterday morning, and like most Australians I found myself glued to the news for the remainder of the day. Candice and I prayed for the outcome hoping that everything would work out fine. Sadly, 2 innocent hostages were killed along with the troubled Islamic extremist who held them captive for over 15 hours.
I was at work when the news broke out that the siege was over. The doctor I was working with, a Muslim man from Pakistan, was receiving calls and texts from his family who were worried about his safety. They had heard about the hate crimes that often follow terrorist acts and were hoping that he would be safe from any anti-Islamic retaliations. Their concerns were not unfounded. The terrorist act perpetrated by this man was sure to spark anger and hatred among certain segments of the population who would attempt to lash out against all Muslims as a way of "getting back".
And it happened. A Muslim woman riding the train this morning was harrased by a male passenger. Another Muslim woman riding the train was reported to have removed her hijab fearing her safety. "Within hours of the attack... a Muslim group reported that women wearing the hijab had been spat on and the right-wing Australian Defence League [ADL] called on followers to protest at two major mosques."
However, something remarkable happened. The woman harrassed on the train was defended by the rest of the passengers resulting in the mans arrest. The woman who removed her hijab was approached by a local named Rachel who told her "put it back on, I'll walk with you." Rachel said "She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute - then walked off alone." And the protests called by the ADL never materialized. But that wasn't all. Twitter soon became inundated with the hashtag #illridewithyou. "The Twitter hash tag... express[es] support for Muslims who felt vulnerable on public transport in the wake of the siege." Yahoo News reports, "within hours it had been used in almost 120,000 tweets."
And the trend continues to grow as Australians rise to the occasion, responding to the Muslim community with love instead of hatred. Of course, not everyone is supportive but I have to say, I am totally blown away by how beautiful this response has been. During the last 3 months I have had the opportunity to work with a handful of Muslims from Pakistan, Malaysia and even Iran. It has been amazing to hear them tell their side of the story - how they hated Sadam Hussein, Osama Binladen, and the insanity of Islamic State. They have spoken to me of love, tolerance, respect for fellow human beings, and a desire to live at peace. These wonderful Muslims are haunted by the actions of fanatics whose inhumanity leaves them shaking their heads and at times, fearing for their safety.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and to treat each other as we would like to be treated. He calls us to embrace the foreigner and to treat every man as our neighbor. He calls us to reflect his character to this world by living, not for our own self-interests, but for the well being of others. In effect, Jesus says #illridewithyou and I want his words to be exemplified in my life.
Now I don't use public transport. This limits my ability to truly "ride" with a fellow Muslim. But what I can do is support the cause by refusing to embrace intolerance, hatred, anger, and enmity against Muslims, by standing up for them when they are mistreated, and by spreading the message of acceptance and kindness that is desperately needed in this hate-filled world.
In short: Jesus says #illridewithyou and so do I.
 Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 10:25-37, Luke 9:54-56, Galatians 3:28photo credit: thedescrier via photopin cc