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#illridewithyouThe aftermath of yesterday’s siege in Sydney with this morning’s tragic loss of life occupies the airwaves. Community empathy washes on two shores. Hearts go out to the victims and their families.  They also reach out to apprehensive Muslim communities, who are also shocked and appalled by what took place in the hands of one mentally sick individual acting out under the discourse of their faith. Based on precedent, adherents of Islam brace themselves for community backlash.

The hashtag #illridewithyou has shifted what might have become an ugly undercurrent in reactions to the siege. It originated with Sydneysider Rachel Jacobs who noticed a young woman fearfully removing her hijab while riding public transport. She urged her to put it back on, saying, “I’ll ride with you.”  Shortly after, she described her experience on Twitter, using the now viral hashtag #illridewithyou.

The phenomenal power of social media was almost instantaneous. Even, while the siege continued, something happened to the zeitgeist of fear that loomed over the city and nation. #illridewithyou trended as men and women from all walks of life reassured their Muslim neighbours and even strangers, “We’re all in this together.”

It is as if the whole Australian community has found a rallying point around a simple sound-byte that carries so much punch – a simple set of words that helps the community overcome recent times of political and media manipulated polarisation across a range of public issues. Yes, it is still possible to claim the oft trumped nation’s ideal of unity in diversity against the most horrendous circumstances.

“I’ll ride with you.” Truly today’s Advent voice!

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