Police secure at the crime scene after Assyrian Orthodox Bishop Mari Emmanuel was stabbed at the altar of Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, a western suburb of Sydney, April 15, 2024. OSV News photo/Giovanni Portelli, The Catholic Weekly

Calm urged after Australian bishop stabbed

By  Marilyn Rodrigues, OSV News
  • April 17, 2024

Australian religious and political leaders have called for calm and unity after the attempted murder of an Assyrian Orthodox clergyman at his church’s altar in Sydney’s western suburbs, just days after a separate knife attack claimed six lives in Sydney’s Bondi Junction mall.

Assyrian Orthodox Bishop Mari Emmanuel was stabbed April 15 at the altar of Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, an independent church he established in 2015. In a now-removed livestream, a man in dark clothing could be seen approaching the altar and stabbing Emmanuel multiple times before congregants rushed up to stop the attack.

The 16-year-old attacker was quickly restrained by the congregation, some of whom were injured in the attempt. The attacker in turn suffered severe injuries from the angry crowd that quickly formed, police confirming at least one of his fingers was severed.

Paramedics treated Emmanuel at the scene, later taking him to Liverpool Hospital where he was reportedly recovering well from non-life-threatening injuries.

New South Wales Police said the attacker had been restrained prior to their arrival, and was arrested and taken to an “undisclosed location.”

An estimated 2,000 men quickly converged on the church after the attack, with police responding by deploying the riot squad. Batons and pepper spray were used to disperse the crowd. 

New South Wales Premier Chris Minns confirmed the stabbing was a “terrorist act” April 16 after convening a council of religious and community leaders overnight to call for calm.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said at a press conference with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese the same day that police will allege the attack was “religiously motivated” and also called for calm.

Faith leaders worked hard to ease concerns in the community, with Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney urging believers to respond with “prayer and peace” rather than fear or anger. 

“The best response to violence and fear is prayer and peace,” Fisher said.

Overnight, Minns had met with Christian and Muslim leaders, police and government representatives to issue a joint statement rejecting “violence in all its forms.”

Maronite Catholic Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, leader of Sydney’s large Maronite community, attended the meeting and also called for continued prayer and restraint. The Australian National Imams Council likewise condemned the attacks as “horrifying” and having no place in Australia.

Emmanuel was a bishop of the Assyrian Ancient Church of the East, before establishing Christ the Good Shepherd Church, and is no longer listed among the clergy of the Assyrian Church.

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