Sydney bishop forgives alleged attacker after church stabbing, calls for ‘Christlike’ response

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Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel makes his first comments from hospital where he is being treated

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel has forgiven his alleged attacker in his first public comments since he was stabbed on Monday while delivering a sermon at a church in western Sydney.

He called for his supporters not to retaliate over the attack but to behave “Christlike”.

The 53-year-old bishop has been in hospital since he was allegedly stabbed by a 16-year-old boy during a livestreamed service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley on Monday evening.

A 39-year-old priest was also allegedly stabbed after trying to intervene, according to police. He and the bishop were expected to recover after undergoing surgery.

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The New South Wales police and state government are treating the alleged stabbing as an act of terrorism.

The episode triggered a riot outside the church allegedly involving violence towards police and paramedics .

The church on Thursday released an audio statement from Emmanuel in which the bishop, speaking from his hospital bed, said he was recovering well and that he was praying for his alleged attacker.

“I forgive whoever has done this act,” he said. “And I say to him, ‘You’re my son. I love you and I will always pray for you.’

“And whoever sent you to do this, I forgive them as well in Jesus’s mighty name.

“I have nothing in my heart but love for everyone. Whether that person is a Christian or not, it’s totally beside the point.”

He called on his supporters to pray instead of retaliate: “There is no need to be worried or concerned. And a piece of advice to all our beloved faithfuls – I need you to act Christlike.

“The Lord Jesus never taught us to fight, the Lord Jesus never taught us to retaliate, the Lord Jesus never said to us ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.”

The teenager who allegedly stabbed Emmanuel was taken to hospital at an undisclosed location where he remained under police guard after undergoing surgery for injuries he sustained during the alleged attack.

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The NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, has not revealed any precise motive for the alleged attack. “We believe there are elements that are satisfied in terms of religious-motivated extremism,” she said on Tuesday.

In a video reportedly filmed in the wake of the alleged attack, the alleged attacker could be heard saying in Arabic: “If he [the bishop] didn’t get himself involved in my religion, if he hadn’t spoken about my prophet, I wouldn’t have come here … if he just spoke about his own religion, I wouldn’t have come.”

Emmanuel, who has a popular online presence and a large following, has previously criticised Islam and the prophet Muhammad in public sermons.

The decision by police to declare the alleged attack an act of terrorism gives counter-terrorism police extraordinary powers under NSW laws to investigate, as well as conduct searches to prevent any further suspected attacks.

The NSW premier, Chris Minns, has defended their decision. “It’s necessary … It’s not a performative gesture,” Minns told Nine’s Today program on Wednesday.

“It’s my judgment that the absolute right decision was made, and I just hope people don’t second guess the police at the moment.”

Minns made the remarks after the federal Fowler MP, Dai Le, whose electorate encompasses Wakeley, warned that the terrorism declaration could heighten tensions in the community.