On The Sydney Siege:

A year has passed since tragedy struck Sydney; What have we learned?

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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.


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The warriors of love made their mark at Martin Place. [Source: http://www.photoforum.com.au ]

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.


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The jarring image that many of us remember. [Source: http://www.bbc.com ]

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.


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Australia turned a site of horror into a garden of beauty and love. [Source: 702 ABC Sydney: John Donegan ]

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,

– MG.

On Paris and Beirut

Choose to be a champion of love and acceptance, rather than a slave to hatred and fear.

I didn’t plan on writing about the horror that struck Beirut and Paris, just a day apart, over a week ago. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why.

I guess a part of me didn’t think it was a time for heavy-handed words. Humanity was once again bleeding from wounds caused by senseless violence against itself. Infected and swollen from thousands of years of agitation, we had once again ripped off the scab. 

I wanted to sit in that wound. I wanted to feel the pain and the sadness that my brothers and sisters across the world were drowning in.

A part of me wanted a moment to breathe. We humans, when overwhelmed with powerful emotions, are vulnerable to overreacting. I didn’t want to be swept away by the tsunami of aggression, hatred, bigotry, Islamophobia, and calls for vengeance that flooded my news-feed.

Another part of me felt a bit hypocritical writing about Beirut and France while I, like most of us, had largely ignored the other 287 terrorist attacks that have taken place thus far in 2015.

Even the tragedy in Beirut was barely whispered about, until the Lebanese community came together and made themselves heard.

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Female relatives of Samer Huhu, who was killed in the Islamic State twin bombing attack, mourn during his funeral in a southern suburb of Beirut on November 13, 2015. [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

There was also the part of me who witnessed so many of you fighting the good fight; rational minds not being overwhelmed by fear; pure hearts preaching love instead of hate; devote warriors of peace refusing to be goaded into a trap and ambushed by the desperate plotting of Ares.

In short, I felt that you didn’t need my words to echo your own, and I still don’t believe you do.


But I recently come across a story that Livy included in his “History of Rome” that really struck home with me. Although it seemingly has nothing to do with Beirut and Paris, I think under the surface the two events are directly related.

Gaius Mucius Scaevola was a Roman warrior who was captured during a war with the Etruscans. Mucius was brought before the Etruscan king who showed him a raging fire. Mucius was told that unless he betrayed his fellow Romans, he would be thrown into the flames. 

The king was using the heat of the fire to strike fear into Mucius, and attempting to use that fear to break him.

Mucius announced that he was a citizen of Rome, and that he would rather die than be a slave to fear. Livy explains that after his declaration, Mucius

thrust his hand into the fire that was kindled for the sacrifice. When he allowed his hand to burn as if his spirit were unconscious of sensation, the king was almost beside himself with wonder.”Livy, History of Rome.

Staring into the eyes of the king, Mucius demonstrated that he would always have the power of choice. Outnumbered and helpless, he choose to put his own flesh to the flame rather give into the fear the king was trying to use to control him.

He did not scream. He did not flinch. The pain was welcomed. It was a demonstration that Mucius, though in a dire situation, never gave away his personal power and freedom.

The king feared Mucius’ bravery might be a representation of the Roman people as a whole. He released the man and immediately sought a peace with Rome. 

He knew that if the spirit of a people cannot be broken, then the people themselves cannot be broken.


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 Mucius Scaevola (c.1680-4) by Sebastiano Ricci; Although in this rendition the artist’s flames are not quite big enough to be “flung into” – the fate Livy suggests was awaiting Mucius – the act of defiance is equally as powerful.

We, as a collective people, are in the same situation that Gaius Mucius Scaevola found himself in. 

Paris and Beirut were our captures. ISIS, sensationalized media, and governments with very specific agendas play the role of the Etruscan king. Muslims and refugees are our fellow Romans; our brothers and our sisters.

Here we stand in front of the king’s black flames of hatred of ignorance. ISIS watches eagerly to see if the heat of those dark embers will scare us. They watch to see if their tactics of fear will make us turn our backs on our family in the middle east. They need and want us to betray our fellow humans. 

For their power comes only from our weakness; they cannot break us from the outside, so they pray that we will cave in.

The power of choice is ours. I look around me and I see the strength in all of you.

Stand before that fire of darkness. Look defiantly into the eyes of the love’s enemies and keep your steady hand in the flames of their hatred. 

Choose to be a champion of love and acceptance, rather than a slave to hatred and fear.

If one man changed the mind of a king and altered the history of Rome, imagine what humanity can do if we stand together, as one, against prejudice, fear, and hatred.

Be good to each other,

– MG.