A few weeks back East Hills Boys High School and Sir Joseph Banks High School - both in south-west Sydney - went into lockdown after a social media threat, then St Andrews Cathedral School the following day and earlier in the month the University of NSW.
The Daily Mail discussed what happens when such an event is under way. This is no easy issue to sort out, let alone trying to trace the culprits.
The norm is to ensure students and staff are secure and safe. Next the police do a thorough search inside the buildings and surrounds. After a series of security checks the buildings and surrounds are given the all clear.
Questions relate to when such threats are made, how far can they be taken ultra seriously – take for example schools, universities, department stores, government buildings, railway stations, airports .... it wouldn't be too hard to shut down a suburb or a transport system.
When it is shown to be an idle threat, already huge disruption has been created, an enormous number of people put out - classes missed, flights missed, shopping closed up and the like.
The problem is that when such a threat is made and it is dismissed, it just might be the one that has substances, and herein lies the agonising issue for authorities.
Parents go into apoplexy when their beautiful little children might be put at risk, and rightly so. Educators get very frustrated. Business people are alarmed when the all clear gets delayed. Transport hubs (railways, airports, coach stations) have engaged in drills for such emergencies.
While not exactly the same, when the Industrial Padre at Shell Australia and they undertook fire and emergency drills, I was involved in the process, to know where I was supposed to be. The same applies to Police, Fire and Emergency (SES) Chaplains. Not even the specialist clergy are exempt.
What is really annoying to everyone involved is that when such people are caught, put through the legal system, front up to court where the full extent of their actions are revealed in financial losses, personal accounts, the fear and frightful experiences of ordinary people - the justice system .......
As I thought about all this, I went searching for any biblical accounts of threat, but in reverse.
Noah building an ark of such dimension that took so long and such a laughing stock certainly created a public uproar. But then the rain started ....
I think of Moses calling Pharaoh to let his people go. Plagues came. 10 in all. Then the first born all died. Finally they were given leave and as the Scriptures say, the Hebrew spoilt the Egyptians. Pharaoh had a relapse and decided to bring them back and sent his army after them through the Red Sea's departed waters .... the Hebrew finally got to the other side ....
Again I can think of Joshua marching for seven days around the city of Jericho. Day after day. Nothing happened. The fifth day – one might even imagine the laughter and ridicule of those on the walls looking down. Then came the seventh day ....
I could wax lyrical giving example after example from the Book of Judges and then the Kings and The Chronicles. What about Elijah on Mt Carmel calling a contest with the prophets of Baal.
The New Testament has plenty of similar examples of threat – but with different kinds of results. John the Baptist's challenge to Herod (not a good hair day). The fig tree that shrivelled and died (food deletion). Pilate acquiescing to the crowd (The Cross). An empty tomb with officials concocting a story (changed the world). Two evangelists couldn't agree, Paul and Barnabas (two missionary journeys). On and on.
What do we make of this
One response might be a throwing of hands in the air, that all things work together for those that love the Lord. A kind of, what will be, will be.
But from my reading of the Acts of the Apostles, this was far from the approach of the early Christians, They had a very strong mission direction and this meant, regardless of the cost of discipleship, they were out there and wherever they went, the saving message of Jesus went with them.
What went with them? The saving message of Jesus. Calls for Justice. Community welfare. Righteous community policing, safety and security for all citizens. The holistic message of Christ.
We today are in no less a demanding position in this our era. We must do all that we can to meet such threatening challenges with all the expertise, skill and training that befalls any responsible society. Little wonder that old hymns have such character - Onward Christian Soldiers ... and .... Stand up Stand up for Jesus.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html