Seven youths arrested after knifing of bishop in Australia

By Edward Ross |
New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb speaks on knife attack at church in Wakeley, Australia on April 15, 2024.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb speaks on knife attack at church in Wakeley, Australia on April 15, 2024. | (Screenshot of Reuters video)

The 16-year-old boy who allegedly knifed Eastern Syriac Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel in Australia on April 15 was part of an extremist group of teenagers, and authorities arrested seven of them on Wednesday (April 24), news media reported.

Members of the Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JTT) raided 13 sites in Sydney and Goulburn in a joint effort that included state and federal police and Australia’s domestic intelligence agency to make the arrests in what authorities say was a religiously-motivated attack on the bishop and at least three others, according to Reuters.

The detained youths believed in a religious, violent extremist ideology, according to police, who reportedly said they posed an “unacceptable risk” to society. Five other youths were reportedly being questioned in the ongoing operation.

Emmanuel and the others were stabbed as he presided over a worship service in Wakeley, a suburb of Sydney, that was being livestreamed on April 15. Video footage of the livestream shows an assailant approaching Emmanuel and thrusting what appeared to be a knife at him at least six times as the ultra-conservative preacher addressed the Christ the Good Shepherd Church congregation.

More than 400 police and security personnel were involved in the raids, police said.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb has indicated the attack was a religiously motivated terrorist incident.

Emmanuel reportedly said in an audio message on social media that he forgave his assailant and those who may have sent him. Charbel Saliba, deputy mayor of Fairfield City, a suburb of western Sydney, told CNN that a witness said Emmanuel while bleeding “put his hand on the man that stabbed him and said something like, ‘May the Lord Jesus Christ Save you.’”

In a statement, Christ the Good Shepherd Church said Emmanuel suffered several blows to his head and body, and the Rev. Isaac Royel, a parish priest, was also injured, along with two parish members.

A prominent leader of an ultra-conservative wing of the Assyrian Orthodox, Emmanuel reportedly gained fame during the COVID-19 pandemic for criticizing lockdowns and vaccines. Livestreaming his preaching on YouTube and other social media, he reportedly opposed LGBTQ ideology and voiced hardline views on U.S. and Russian issues.

Born Robert Shlimon in 1970 in Iraq, Emmanuel was ordained a priest in 2009.  He adopted the episcopal name Mari Emmanuel when he was he was ordained a bishop in 2011 in the Ancient Church of the East. In 2015, he established an independent, Eastern Syriac church.