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Stabbed Sydney bishop forgives attacker, but boy is charged

Assyrian Church of the Good Shepherd in Sydney


John Burger - published on 04/18/24

The 16-year-old knife-wielding attacker and the victim are both in hospital; bishop urges calm.

A 16-year-old boy was charged with a terrorism offense Thursday, following Monday’s stabbing of a Christian leader in Sydney.

Meanwhile, Mar Mari Emmanuel, who was attacked at the Christ the Good Shepherd church Monday, released an audio message saying he is recovering well in hospital and that he forgives his attacker. “Mar” is a title meaning “bishop” in some Eastern traditions. 

Bishop Emmanuel, 53, was giving a Bible study Monday evening. A livestream of the weekly Bible session showed the alleged attacker lunging with his knife at Bishop Emmanuel at the podium, striking his head and upper body. The teen’s name has not been released. 

Police in New South Wales earlier this week called the incident a religiously motivated terrorist act.

Officers responding to the scene found that the bishop had “significant injuries to his head,” according to the New South Wales government, in a press release.

“A 39-year-old man also sustained lacerations and a shoulder wound when he attempted to intervene,” the press release added.

The attacker was restrained by members of the public and arrested by police.

“This afternoon (Thursday 18 April 2024), investigators from the Joint Counter Terrorism Team Sydney attended a medical facility to interview the boy, before he was charged with committing a terrorist act under section 101.1 Criminal Code Act (Commonwealth) 1995, an offense which carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life,” the government press release said. “He has been refused bail and is expected to appear before a bedside court hearing tomorrow (Friday 19 April 2024).”

“I forgive in Jesus’ name”

Bishop Emmanuel said in the audio message that he forgives “whoever has done this act. … And I will always pray for you. And whoever sent you to do this, I forgive them as well in Jesus’ mighty name.”

He added that he was “doing fine” and “there is no need to be worried or concerned.”

Emmanuel also called for his community to remain calm and to cooperate with police. The stabbing was followed by a large gathering of people outside the church Monday night, which turned unruly and resulted in injuries to police at the scene.

“I need you to act Christ-like. The Lord Jesus never taught us to fight. The Lord Jesus never taught us to retaliate,” the bishop said.

Monday’s attack came just two days after a man stabbed six people to death in Sydney before being shot dead by police.

The church where Emmanuel was preaching is in a suburb called Wakeley, site of a small Assyrian community, many of whose members fled persecution and war in Iraq and Syria. 

Bishop Emmanuel does not appear to be part of any particular Church hierarchy, either Orthodox or Catholic. Media reports have identified him as an Assyrian Orthodox bishop, but a Chaldean priest who wishes to remain anonymous has pointed out that there is no such thing. This priest said that Emmanuel was originally part of the Assyrian Church of the East and then switched to the Ancient Church of the East where he was ordained a bishop in 2011. No one in those Churches responded to requests for comment.

Another source said that the bishop was suspended over canonical violations.

A priest at Emmanuel’s Sydney church responded to an emailed query from Aleteia, saying simply, “Bishop is from Christ the Good Shepherd Church.” The priest did not respond to a question about Emmanuel’s relationship with any hierarchy.

Emmanuel has a large following on TikTok, YouTube, and other social media and is known for his direct style when speaking of current events, such as transgenderism, homosexuality, and the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the church’s website, he was ordained a priest in 2009 and a bishop in 2011.

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