Horrific events such as those which took place in Sydney a year ago, and those seen in Canadian parliament a few months before it, make it easy to lose (at least a little) faith in humanity.
They make it is easy to generalize.
It becomes easy to blame and to point the finger.
It becomes easy to hate.
Yet as easy as it is to become less humane, it is not the reaction I witnessed in the aftermath of the Sydney siege.
I saw Australia come together as a people, no longer bound by any political, ethnic, or cultural differences.
I saw the brave men and women of Australian law enforcement sail into a storm of bullets attempting to save people they had never met.
I saw people of all religions rally around the hash tag #IllRideWithYou, supporting those beginning to feel ostracized by their faith – which extremists’ constant misrepresentation has sullied with a crimson stain – to continue to freely and without fear commit themselves to their God and their religious beliefs.
I saw candles lit for the safe keeping of those taken hostage, brothers and sisters we knew could be our own.
I saw a country – and a global community – in mourning for a son and daughter taken too soon. We willingly made their families’ pain our own.
I saw, if even for a moment, how beautiful humanity can be at its best.
For at least a day, I saw us no longer blinded by a veil of ignorance. We were – all around the world – simply human.
That universal empathy for the human struggle was alive in all of us. We had no idea of the races, religions, or cultural dispositions of those taken hostage. Yet we feared, hoped, and prayed for them in earnest and with a single voice.
Most importantly, that love exclusive to humans – the one which transcends space and time, life and death – beat louder than ever in how we responded. We were a singular beat in a united human heart.
It is always difficult to look past the hate, to see light in the darkness. Sydney was no different. Why is this so?
Because love isn’t as jarring as a black flag pinned against a shop window, held up by victims terrified for their lives. It isn’t as easy to sensationalize as a man driven by darkness, willing to cause pain and suffering to pursue his own deranged motives. It isn’t as loud as early morning gunshots shattering the innocence of a peaceful nation.
But isn’t that what makes love such a special thing? It isn’t easy to find. Its rarity is what makes love precious.
We see glimmers of it in the passing smiles of strangers and in the laughter of children before it drifts away on the changing winds of the seasons.
We too often let hatred and prejudice bury love next to our slowly eroding humanity. But we didn’t on that Monday a year ago.
Instead, we came together.
What happened in Sydney was not a demonstration of the deterioration of humanity through hatred and social division.
It depicted a single lost soul who had allowed himself to be corrupted by the evils of fanaticism.
My heart aches for all of those who are mourning the loss of those we lost on this day a year ago. Yet it hurts more to think that the memory of them will be tainted by associations with the evil which manifested itself in the form of a broken man.
Instead let us remember the lessons of love that came from their deaths.
Let us remember the brave men and women who risked their lives trying to save them.
The thousands upon thousands of complete strangers who turned an entire Sydney square into a garden of Eden by filling it with beautiful flowers, paying their respects to people they had never known.
The coming together of all races and religions in astounding candlelight vigils full of love and empathy.
The memory of those lost must be remembered for what that event showed us.
It demonstrated how truly powerful love can be when we fight all the prejudices suffocating it. That is how we can honour their memory. That is how we must make sense of such mindless and depraved acts of violence.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Junior, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches.
We must remember the phoenix as it shines brightly in the night sky, not the pile of blackened ash from whence it came.
Love, like happiness, is not a singular end that can be obtained. It is constantly struggled for; it is a way of life.
Love is a beautiful war, and the Sydney siege showed that together we can win it.
Be good to each other,