Stabbed Sydney Assyrian bishop says recovering quickly, forgives attacker

By Thomson Reuters Apr 17, 2024 | 7:25 PM

SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Assyrian bishop who was stabbed during a service at his Sydney church said on Thursday he was recovering quickly and that he had forgiven his attacker.

Two knife attacks within three days – at a busy shopping centre near Bondi beach that killed six people on Saturday and at the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Sydney’s west on Monday – has shocked residents of Australia’s most populous city.

“I am doing fine, recovering very quickly … there is no need to be worried or concerned,” Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel said in an audio message posted on social media, his first public comments since the attack. “I forgive whoever has done this act … I will always pray for you and whoever sent you to do this, I forgive them as well.”

Bishop Emmanuel, who has a popular youth following on TikTok and had criticised homosexuality, COVID vaccinations and Islam in his sermons, was injured in the attack, which has been deemed a terrorist act motivated by suspected religious extremism.

A male teenager has been arrested for the attack, which triggered a riot outside the church after an angry crowd fought emergency crews, demanding that the suspected attacker be handed over to them. Bishop Emmanuel, in his message, urged his congregation to remain calm and respect the law.

As police investigate, authorities said the Bondi Junction mall would reopen on Thursday to allow people inside to pay respects to the victims. Businesses are expected to resume trade starting Friday.

“We’ve gone from shock to disbelief to now grief, and it’s gonna take quite a time for people to be able to process,” Paula Masselos, mayor of the local council, told ABC television.

A candlelight vigil will be held on Sunday, she said, as flowers and bouquets pile up at a makeshift memorial.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Gerry Doyle)