Lessons from the Sydney Siege



Lessons from the Sydney Siege

16 December 2014 Hits:7017

Terrorism is nothing new to Australia.  The first such attack took place in 1915 at Broken Hill when two men identified as being Muslims from the British Colony of India (modern day Pakistan) shot dead four people and wounded seven more, before being killed by police.  Next came the 1972 bombing of the Yugoslav General Trade Agency; the 1978 bombing of the Sydney Hilton hotel; the 1980 assassination of the Turkish Consul-General and the 1982 bombing of the Israeli Consulate and the Hakoah Club – all of these took place in Sydney.  In 1986 Melbourne became the focus of terrorism with the bombing of the Russell Street Police Station and the Turkish Consulate.  Since the 1980s we’ve largely seen terrorism as something that happens “over there”.  The Australian Federal Police (AFP) (and other security agencies) has worked tirelessly in the past decades to uncover terrorist plots against Australia.  This year, due to the rise of Islamic State, the AFP has conducted a number of raids in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane because of suspected plots for acts of terrorism.  On 23 September this year an 18-year-old man, Numan Haider, was shot and killed by police after stabbing two police officers.

This week dramatic events unfolded at the Lindt Café in Sydney, as 50-year-old self-styled sheik Man Haron Monis held 15 people hostage.  The siege ended in the early hours on Tuesday morning and resulted in the deaths of two hostages and the terrorist.  It’s unlikely that this will be the last terrorist attack on Australian soil.  So what can we learn from situations such as this?  Let me suggest a few lessons.

Lesson #1 – Tragedies bring out the best and worst of humanity

In the midst of the siege people were taking selfies and posting them on social media. Others put Sydney siege jokes on Twitter.  There were even a few people around the siege site who were voicing protest against Muslims.  This sort of behaviour shows a lack of restraint and just plain bad taste.  But there have been amazing displays of love and grace that restore one’s faith in the human race.  Concerned about reprisals against Muslims “Sir Tessa” put this on Twitter, “If you reg take the #373 bus b/w Coogee/MartinPl, wear religious attire, & don’t feel safe alone: I’ll ride with you. @ me for schedule.”  The hash tag “illridewithyou” went viral trending globally on Twitter rapidly and in response Australia’s race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said he was heartened by the campaign adding, “let’s not allow fear, hatred and division to triumph”.  More than 40 Muslim groups condemned the siege, saying in a statement that they rejected “any attempt to take the innocent life of any human being or to instill fear and terror into their hearts.”

Lesson #2 – We need to be tougher on crime.

The “Fake Sheik” Man Haron Monis first came to attention of police when he penned poisonous letters to the family of dead Australian soldiers seven years ago for which he was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and placed on a two-year good behaviour bond.  He was charged in November 2013 with being an accessory before and after the fact to the murder of his ex-wife Noleen Hayson Pal.  Ms. Pal was stabbed and set alight in a Werrington apartment block.  Most recently, he was charged with more than 50 allegations of indecent and sexual assault relating to time allegedly spent as a self-proclaimed “spiritual healer” who dealt with black magic at premises in western Sydney more than a decade ago.  Why was a man with so many convictions against him out on bail?  If our justice system were tougher the Sydney Siege never would have happened.

Lesson #3 – We must be more careful who we allow to be Australian citizens.

Monis was originally from Iran and came to Australia in the late 1990s.  He obtained political asylum in 2001.  He fled Iran because he was in fear of his life from the regime at that time.  Phillip Ruddock was immigration minister across the period in which Monis’ refugee status was being considered.  I believe strongly that we should be compassionate and welcoming to genuine asylum seekers, but we must also remain strong and vigilant with those who could be a threat to our safety and values.  Australia’s asylum-seeker system has let us down in the case on Man Haron Monis.

Lesson #4 – When trouble strikes most people become believers.

Of all the hash tags that were used during this crisis the one that resonated most with people was #prayforsydney.  I find it fascinating that in times of danger and threat to life many people become believers.  We have an instinct for something – or someone – greater than ourselves who we perceive as able to help when things appear helpless.  I believe it’s a God-given understanding that He is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  People like Shane Warne, Jessica Mauboy and Cody Simpson were praying for Sydney this week.

Lesson #5 – We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next minute.

The people who went to work at the Lindt Café this week – or just went in for their morning coffee – had no idea that their life was going to change – or end. While I’m not suggesting for one minute that we live in fear, I am encouraging a life lived with our mortality in mind.  The Bible reminds us: you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

It would do us well to learn these lessons!

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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10 replies on “Lessons from the Sydney Siege”

Leeanne Butchersays:

Well said Pst Rob.

Jan Claridgesays:

I love the five lessons we must learn from this horrendous event in Sydney Rob. Sadly, in a week or two though, people will put it behind them and go on with life, forgetting these valuable lessns.

Tal Spinradsays:

rob. Sadly I feel most people will walk away from your blog with….
*Stop refugees
*Australia has a long history of Muslim terror
*The answer is to get tough on crime
There is an old Isreali saying, “The easy simple answers are the ones that Re getting people killed.” I don’t believe you Re suggesting this…but it would be easy to walk away from this blog with that impression.

David Vowlessays:

Thanks for a great summary Rob.


Agreed with everything except suggestion on who to make citizens. such a suggestion would ultimately lead to racism and take us back row white Australia.

Tony Daltonsays:

Hi Rob
I love your blogs. They are always a good mix of wisdom and compassion. But I’m wondering about a few things in your most recent. Firstly, the use of the word ‘terrorism.’ Terrorism is an organised and targeted response to a government or social situation. Lone gunmen are not terrorists unless they are representative of a particular group. Man Haron Monis was generally shunned by Muslims and is not regarded as a spokesperson for them. He has more in common with Martin Bryant than any terrorist. I don’t see how he can accurately be identified as a terrorist.
My personal view is the use of the term terrorist in this case creates some sense of angst and encourages victimisation of Muslims, giving permission to zenophobes to vilify 1.6 billion people on the basis of the actions of a single person. This was the act of a lone and apparently mentally ill individual.
The second issue is the ‘law and order’ agenda. Man Haron Monis has a single conviction in Australia for writing ‘Offensive and deplorable letters’. His current charges relate to incidents allegedly committed between 2 and 10 years ago. He obtained bail because there was no evidence to suggest that he was at risk of committing further offences, consequently it was reasonable for police not to oppose bail.
In relation to the ‘law and order’ debate, it cost about $100,000 per year to imprison someone (all those refused bail are housed in maximum security). There are about 25,000 people on bail (per year in Victoria). The facts are that number of crimes committed by people on bail is minimal and there is no established link between tougher bail laws and reduced crime rates. The consequence of people arguing for tougher penalties, is an increase in the prison population of nearly 50% in the past 5 years (which would further increase with the refusal to grant bail) and the loss of millions of dollars that could have been invested much more productively. Far better to invest the money into mental health and education, both of which have proven impacts on crime (where as prison appears to increase it.)
The third issue is to link his behaviour with that of his refugee status as it taints all refugees and migrants, of which there were 50,000 in NSW last year. Generally refugees are no more likely to offend than Australians. Even if he was screened more closely, it is unlikely his behaviour over the past week could have been predicted when he obtained a visa 13 years ago.
Ultimately I’m advocating for two things. Informed and reasoned debate and the refusal of people to link Man Haron Monis in anyway with either the Muslim religion or the fact that he was a refugee.

Josh Walterssays:

Hi Rob
You are a good man and I like your blogs. I however found this blog to be in conflict with a number of things that Christianity is about. We need to keep praying for the country and the victims and put faith in the Lord. When the devil is at work, even non-immigrants can be a danger to society, no need to link Man Haron’s mistakes to refugees, most of whom happen to be Muslims.

Rob Buckinghamsays:

The sixth issue of Dabiq, the glossy propaganda magazine of Islamic state, begins by taking responsibility for the terrorist attack in Sydney that killed two at St. Martin’s place and again calls on the Islamic State’s supporters worldwide to carry out killings of Westerners whenever and wherever they can without revealing their intentions by discussing them. So IS views what happened in Sydney as a terrorist attack. Also, the Australian justice system has now taken Monis’ partner into custody revoking her bail. If they had been more vigilant with Monis two innocent people would now be alive, families would not be in grief and others would not be traumatized. I stand by my comments in this blog. It’s time to get tougher.

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Hi Tal,

Thanks for your comments. I’m saddened that you think that as it is not my intention. The history I included is true however. It is a sad reality that in today’s world the vast majority of terrorism and persecution comes at the hands of Muslim extremists. That is undeniable but it is not a wholesale condemnation of all Muslims.

My statements about Refugees were in context of “I believe strongly that we should be compassionate and welcoming to genuine asylum seekers.” And yes, I believe we should be tougher on crime. Spare a thought to the likes of Jill Meagher’s family, the families of those who were killed earlier this week, and countless others whose lives would have been spared if killers were not allowed free on bail.
G-d Bless,

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