It’s been a rough few hours for Sydney, Australia. Monday morning an Iranian refugee and self-styled Sunni cleric (with a long rap sheet) took a cafe and its occupants hostage. While the situation was unfolding, a social media movement also began to take shape. The hashtag #IllRideWithYou began trending on Twitter as Aussies offered to ride public transportation with those wearing religious attire in a preemptive counter to bigotry and Islamophobia.
It apparently began when a woman noticed a fellow train passenger removing her hijab. She responded by reaching out to the other woman and offering to walk with her. Someone else offered to do the same on their commute and the hashtag was born. According to Twitter Australia, there were 40,00 Tweets within two hours and it has been growing since. I hope the movement isn’t purely viral and that those wanting or needing support on the streets of Australia today are finding it.
From my perspective, as I sit far away watching the news, it’s comforting to see such displays of empathy, solidarity and clear-mindedness as tragedy unfolds. It reminds me of the incident in Cold Lake, Alberta after the Ottawa shooting in October where community members came together to wash away hateful words that vandals had sprayed on a local mosque.
Of course, it isn’t the answer to radicalization or bigotry or violence. But it’s a much needed reminder that compassion exists, even in the face of such ugliness.