Knife Attack on Assyrian Bishop Sparks Outrage and Calls for Unity in Sydney

Knife attack on Assyrian bishop in Sydney church sparks outrage, calls for calm from leaders. Authorities declare it a terrorist incident, community unites in response.

Geeta Pillai
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Knife Attack on Assyrian Bishop Sparks Outrage and Calls for Unity in Sydney

Knife Attack on Assyrian Bishop Sparks Outrage and Calls for Unity in Sydney

A knife attack on a prominent Assyrian Christian bishop during a church service in Sydney, Australia, has sparked outrage and calls for calm from religious and political leaders. The incident occurred at the Christ the Good Shepherd Church, where a 16-year-old boy allegedly used a switchblade to wound Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and the Rev. Isaac Royel. The congregation overpowered the teen, whose fingers were reportedly severed in the struggle.

Authorities have declared the church attack a terrorist incident, citing the teenager's comments and actions that pointed to a religious motive. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and Australian Federal Police have joined the state police in a counterterrorism task force to investigate the incident. The bishop and priest are reported to be in stable condition, while the suspect is in the hospital under police guard.

Why this matters: The attack has heightened public anxiety in Sydney, coming just days after a separate knife attack in a shopping mall that left six people dead. It has also triggered traumatic memories for members of the Assyrian community who had fled war-torn countries.

Bishop Emmanuel, a conservative leader known for his fiery sermons criticizing homosexuality, COVID-19 vaccines, Islam, and U.S. President Joe Biden, has been a controversial figure within the Assyrian community. However, the attack has brought unity, with other Assyrian denominations expressing solidarity and prayers for the victims. Faith leaders, including the Archbishop of Sydney, have urged the community to respond with prayer and peace rather than fear or anger.

"We must continue to pray for peace and restraint," said the Maronite Catholic Bishop in a statement. "This is a time for understanding and unity, not retaliation or spreading misinformation that could further inflame tensions."

The incident sparked a riot outside the church, with an angry mob hurling objects at police and injuring officers. Authorities are urging social media platforms to shut down accounts spreading misinformation that could incite further violence, and are reviewing policies on how security guards can be armed to prevent similar attacks in the future. In the aftermath, the Assyrian community has come together to clean up the streets and overcome what one leader called a "spasm of hate."

Key Takeaways

  • Assyrian bishop attacked during church service in Sydney, Australia
  • Attack declared a terrorist incident, investigation by counterterrorism task force
  • Bishop and priest in stable condition, 16-year-old suspect hospitalized
  • Attack sparked outrage, calls for calm from religious and political leaders
  • Riot outside church, authorities urge social media to curb misinformation