Siege in Sydney
SYDNEY – Australians were well into preparing for Christmas and New Year celebrations this Monday morning (December 15, 2014) when a meteor ploughed into the heart of this city and shook the nation.
It came in the form of a hostage crisis – still ongoing as I write – as a man reportedly walked into the popular Lindt Chocolate Café in the city’s Martin’s Place adjacent to the parliament of New South Wales and, wielding a machete and a shotgun, took between 12 and possibly as many as 50 civilians hostages.
Within minutes, as tactical police officers, fire trucks, armoured vehicles and reporters deployed to the scene, images streamed across the land and around the world of patrons inside the shop pressing their hands and faces against the shop windows, while a black flag bearing the Muslim *Shahada prayer was displayed over their heads.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from the immediate area, and for hours – as I write this from a location just north of Sydney, beginning about 90 minutes after it began – bewildered and shocked Australians (including my hosts) have been scrambling to ascertain the whereabouts of family and friends known to be in the CBD of Australia’s largest city.
Unbroken news coverage is ensuring that the whole nation is glued to this story that has so rudely interrupted the holiday atmosphere hitherto pervading the land.
According to unconfirmed reports, the hostage taker possibly has an IED (improvised explosive device) in a bag. The iconic Sydney Opera House was closed down shortly after the crisis began when a suspicious parcel was found inside. That has since been cleared. Five hours into the siege three hostages appeared to escape and as I publish this we’re waiting to hear what information they brought out with them.
Commentators on Sky News National TV are saying how all around the world people are watching this. And they have expressed the fear that the machete reportedly seen with the suspect may be used in an attempt to cut off the head of one or more of the hostages in front of the bank of cameras outside.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has told the media that there is no indication of the motive of the “offender” at this stage, there has been no contact with the man, but admitted that security forces are treating this as a terrorist attack.
NSW Premier Mike Baird told reporters: “The police are being tested; the public are being tested…but we will face it head on. We will remain a strong and democratic civil society. We will get through this.”
And Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called on his countrymen to ensure that this event “does not change Australia.”
While Abbott was primarily strengthening the nation against efforts to terrorize it, in the wider sense many would hope that this would serve as a wake up call to Australia about the nature of the threat posed by Islam.
And while I have no physical evidence to directly tie this event with my reason for being in Australia at this time, I cannot disconnect it from the bigger picture.
I flew into the country on November 22 and am here for five weeks – bringing a message to Australian Christians to stand firm against the pressure on the country to unilaterally recognise the non-existent ‘State of Palestine.’
Time will show whether the ‘Palestine’ question is behind the act of terror today.
The government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott has taken a moral stand on the question of this state, refusing thus far to go along with the current European rush to vote recognition of it.
As a result, Muslim Arab ambassadors have lined up outside the offices of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to threaten Australia into changing its stance.
But even during my time here the Federal Parliament has begun debating a motion calling for such recognition from the government. That debate has been suspended with the summer recess, and is set to resume some time after Parliament reconvenes on February 16.
Today, within an hour of the news breaking from Sydney, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) announced that this Wednesday it will submit a United Nations resolution to the UN Security Council calling for Israel’s forced eviction from Judea, Samaria and ‘Eastern Jerusalem.’
The wording of the resolution reportedly requires Israel to end its “occupation of Palestine” within two years.
More than 150 United Nations member states have already recognized Palestine, and the European Parliament is scheduled to vote on this matter on December 17 – the same day the PLO plans to submit its resolution.
Christians in Australia have responded with intensity to the word shared in the south-eastern part of this country as I have spoken on the Sunshine Coast, in Brisbane, on the Gold Coast, in and around Melbourne, in Canberra, and in greater Sydney area where this drama is now unfolding, and where I will be for another two days.
A core team of Australian Christian leaders has drawn up a motivational letter to circulate among the people I have been speaking to, along with petitions to both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Many in this land believe Australia is being confronted with an opportunity to position itself rightly regarding Israel. Concerns expressed wherever I have gone – that the majority of Australians are apathetic and feel untouched by conflicts emanating from the Middle East – have led some to voice the belief that something terrible may “have” to happen in this land to wake it up to the dangers.
As this drama continues to unfold, I am joining with the people of this land in prayer for the hostages, and asking that the lessons that need to be learned will be learned without a terrible loss of innocent life.
*The Shahada declares that “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.”