Has the Sydney Siege Ruined Christmas?

Karl Faase reflects on the Sydney Seige

By Martin Johnson
Special to ASSIST News Service

SYDNEY (ANS) — Last week, Sydney experienced a new form a terror, played out live on our television screens from a café in the heart of our city in Martin Place. It’s the centre of Sydney’s commercial district – opposite the Reserve Bank of Australia, across from the television studios of Channel 7 and just a block down from the NSW Houses of Parliament.

Sydney siege

Hostage runs for safety at the Lindt cafe in Sydney, Australia.

Last Monday morning, Man Haron Monis walked into the Lindt café with a gun in his bag and malicious intent on his mind. He held 17 innocent people hostage for more than 16 hours before the tragic events unfolded which would see several wounded and two hostages die in the siege along with Monis. All of this occurred amidst the Christmas decorations that adorned the cafe. There can be little more incongruous than the sight of those people, pressed up against a shop window, with an armed mad man in the background, surrounded by the trappings of Christmas.

Our community loves Christmas. We love the celebrations, the holidays, the presents and a reason to gather with the people we love. But it can also be an opportunity for collective amnesia. We gather in our homes, open presents and eat excessive amounts of food, all the while pretending that the world is a wonderful place. Christmas is a special celebration but it exists with a backdrop of pain, loss, hurt, heartache, injustice and yes, terror.

In situations such as the S ydney siege, there are those who suffer from survivor’s guilt. This was the case for the young man who arrived late for work at the Lindt café on Tuesday morning, only to discover the doors were locked. His initial confusion at finding a locked door turned to fear as he saw what was unfolding in front of him – a gunman holding his work colleagues as hostages. He was interviewed on a number of occasions during the day and what he expressed seemed to reflect a sense of disappointment that he was not inside with his colleagues rather than the joy and relief at his good fortune of not being involved in the terrifying siege. That is survivor’s guilt.

We as a community can suffer from survivor’s guilt. We ask ourselves how can we possibly celebrate Christmas in the face of this event? How do we gather with friends, sit down to a wonderful meal and open expensive gifts when others will be racked with the pain of loss and grief? Can we, as a community, really enjoy ourselves when there is such pain around us?

Yet life has always been like this. We have just become good at ignoring the pain of others. It is not until it is a little closer to home that we start to take notice. What the pain and uncertainty of terror should teach us is that we need God. We can’t fix our world and we can’t change humanity through education or civilisation.

We need an internal shift that only God can do through His Spirit. This is the message of Christmas – God has reached into human existence in the person of Jesus to change all of us and to build a better world. The deeper meaning of Christmas is that God has and does respond to human pain and need. The stark reality of the Sydney Siege does not rob us of Christmas or diminish its meaning, but it ought to bring into sharp focus our need for God and His loving response to human need through Jesus.

Karl Faase is the founder and CEO of Olive Tree Media. He recently stepped down as Senior Pastor of Gymea Baptist Church after a 20 year ministry to focus on media.

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