Wednesday 17 April 2024

Sydney church stabbing: Boy, 16, arrested after Bishop attacked

Twitter Screenshot of a man walking up to a bishop giving a sermon

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested after a bishop and several churchgoers were stabbed during a sermon in Sydney.

The incident happened on Monday evening at the Christ The Good Shepherd Church in the suburb of Wakeley.

At least four people were stabbed but police said none of their injuries were life-threatening.

The incident triggered unrest as hundreds gathered outside the church, clashing with police - two of whom were injured.

Vehicles were damaged as people threw stones, bricks and bottles and, according to Reuters news agency, police fired pepper spray.

Witnesses said the people gathered were demanding for the attacker to be brought outside.

Police said they had responded in numbers to the incident and urged the public to keep away from the area.

New South Wales acting assistant commissioner Andrew Holland said the 16-year-old suspect was being treated for wounds to his hand. He added he had been taken to a secure location.

The stabbing comes days after six people were killed at a shopping mall in Sydney. The attacker was later shot dead by a police officer.

There is no suggestion the two events are linked.

The bishop attacked on Monday was named by local media as Mar Mari Emmanuel.

Ordained by the Assyrian Orthodox Church in 2011, he is seen as a popular and controversial figure. His sermons have received millions of views on social media.

"There was so much anger because the bishop is loved by them, he's loved by myself as well, he preaches about the lord and we love the lord," local resident Canny told Reuters.

But the bishop has had a turbulent relationship with the Assyrian Church, reportedly being suspended for disobeying canons and forming a breakaway church.

In 2021 Mar Mari Emmanuel became a vocal opponent of Covid-19 restrictions, describing lockdowns in Australia as slavery and arguing that vaccines were futile.

The church said in a statement that a priest, Father Isaac, was also injured. Both were taken to hospital.

"We ask for your prayers at this time," the church said.

"We also kindly ask anyone at the church premises to leave in peace", it added.

Local Mayor Frank Carbone was among those calling for calm.

"I understand a lot of members in our community are really distraught but what is important is I believe that the bishop has been taken to hospital and should be okay," he told Sky News Australia.

According to AFP news agency, the Wakeley neighbourhood is a hub for Sydney's small Christian Assyrian community, many of whom have fled persecution and war in Iraq and Syria.

In the livestreamed video on the sermon, a man dressed in dark clothing can be seen approaching the bishop before appearing to strike him with a weapon that was not immediately identified.

Several other people then attempt to intervene and screams of horror can be heard.

"The injured people suffered non-life threatening injuries and are being treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics," police said in a statement.

Those hurt are all thought to be men aged between 20 and 70. The motive for the attack is unknown.

A man in his 50s and another man in his 30s were taken to hospital with multiple lacerations, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. The hospital's emergency department was closed to the public as a precaution.