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Prayers said for victims of 16-hour siege at Sydney cafe

19 December 2014

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Floral tributes: people pay their re­spects at a vigil in Martin Place, Sydney, after the deaths of the gunman and two hostages in the Lindt Chocolat Café siege

Floral tributes: people pay their re­spects at a vigil in Martin Place, Sydney, after the deaths of the gunman and two hostages in the Lindt Chocola...

THE Primate of Australia, Dr Philip Freier, has called for an investigation into how the gunman at the centre of Monday's hostage crisis in Sydney had access to a gun.

"He was known to the police, was on bail on charges of being an accessory to the murder of his wife and on 40 counts of sexual assault, and had threatened the families of Australian soldiers killed on active service," Dr Freier said in a statement. "Did he acquire the firearm legally? Is it time to re-examineour firearm regulations and their enforcement?"

The 16-hour siege in a coffee shop in the heart of Sydney's business district came to a bloody end in the early hours of Tuesday morning when the lone hostage-taker - an Iranian refugee and self-described sheik - and two of the 17 hostages were shot dead. Five women were hospitalised, together with a police officer.

While the hostage drama was taking place, the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, urged all Christians to pray for the safety of the hostages, and for the police and security forces. Dr Davies also called for "the speedy delivery of justice for those who would seek to invade our world with such a doctrine of hate and violence".

Public prayers for the hostages were said on the half-hour throughout the day in St Paul's Cathedral, in Melbourne. There was a report of a Roman Catholic priest, an imam, and a rabbi praying together in the mosque in Lakemba, a suburb of Sydney, as 40 Muslim groups expressed "utter shock and horror" at what was happening. Their statement said that they rejected "any attempt to take the innocent life of any human being, or to instil fear and terror into their hearts". It was time for "all Australians to stand together and support each other", they said.

Amid fears of a backlash against Australian Muslims, a Twitter hashtag #illridewithyou was established: followers offered to ride on public transport with any Muslims frightened of being targeted on buses and trains.

On Tuesday morning, residents of Sydney were laying flowers at a makeshift memorial in Martin Place, the scene of the hostage drama, and flags on government buildings were flying at half-mast.

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