This is the ambush site of Australia’s first ever terrorist attack. On New Year’s Day, 1915, 1200 men, women and children, boarded a train consisting of a locomotive and 40 open ore trucks travelling to the annual New Year’s Day picnic at Silverton – about 20 kms away. The crowded train of excited people departed Sulphide Street Railway Station in Broken Hill at 10am.
Shortly after departure, the passengers were attacked by two gunmen, an ice-cream vendor, Gool Mohamad, and a butcher, Mulla Abdulla, who sprayed the open ore carriages of the train with a hail of bullets. The attackers were Turkish sympathisers who wanted to exact revenge for Australia joining the war against the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Soon after the attack, the train was shunted to safety back towards Broken Hill. The gunmen then fled to the low hills and took refuge at a rocky outcrop called White Rocks. Both of them were mortally wounded in the ensuing three-hour gun battle with the police. The total casualties from the incident, including the attackers, were six dead and seven wounded.
Gool and Abdulla’s attack against innocent unarmed civilians, out for a day of fun in the sun, was not only an appalling, violent crime – it was also unconscionable. And while violence and hate are never an appropriate response, their actions are rooted in a far deeper, overarching issue. Gool and Abdullah’s attack was born out of a combination of nationalism and religious zeal fuelled by pent-up frustration over personal circumstances and discriminatory treatment that both men experienced. Both had been subject to racial taunts and bigotry.
The story of the attack at Broken Hill is a reminder that racism and bigotry, have long been a major problem in society and in our hearts. More often than not, racism and discrimination are not so much a matter of skin as of sin. Even though in some instances skin plays a part in a great many instances, discrimination and racial prejudice has had nothing to do with the colour of one’s skin. Racism is a sin problem, not a skin problem. This is not some minor issue to God. It’s at the heart of the Gospel.
The reality is that as human beings we are steeped in a disease that the Bible calls sin. Sin is best described in Isaiah 14:13-14 where the Bible explains the fall of Lucifer and the attitude he cherished in his heart that led to his fall. Here’s what it says:
For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
The root cause of sin is pride. The kind of pride that leads us to believe that we are better than someone else simply because of the way we look, think, act, or talk, or even because of what we believe.
It’s this kind of pride that leads to racism, discrimination and the kind of nationalism that can lead to acts of violence and terrorism. And this kind of pride is not something that is unique to a single demographic of people.
This kind of pride is ingrained in every human heart because the Bible says in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Each human being inherently seeks to place themselves above others.
But the Bible tells us plainly that there is no room for this kind of pride. In fact, racism, in all its forms, be it discrimination against someone because of the colour of their skin, or their ethnicity, or their beliefs, is something the Bible denounces.
In Galatians 3:28 the Bible says, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The Bible teaches us that we are not to discriminate between ethnic groups, cultural ideologies or social status.
The ground is level at the foot of the cross and we are to treat each other accordingly; without discrimination, hate or bigotry. Each of us have been created in the image of God and saved by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is this alone that gives us value.
Though we form different nations, speak different languages and have different cultural values, the Bible tells us that God has made us of one blood. There is no room for discrimination in God’s sight. We are all His Children, all equally valued in His sight.