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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Prayers rise for Assyrian bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel after Wakeley knife attack

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Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

With Sydney still reeling from the horrific stabbing of Assyrian Orthodox Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel on Monday 15 April, close to 100 people gathered in prayer outside the Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley on Tuesday evening.

Parishioners and well-wishers shed tears and shared prayers bycandlelight, laying flowers and burning incense, after rumours spread of a prayer vigil for Mar Emmanuel, who was attacked by a 16-year-old assailant the night before.

At 9pm on Tuesday a church spokesperson told the small crowd that rumours of the vigil were false and asked attendees to leave.

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People remained but began to disperse when the NSW public order squad drove past the site shortly after.

Mar Emmanuel has received support from across the broader Christian community, including from Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, who expressed his solidarity and prayerful support with clergy of all religions, and their right to worship free from violence and intimidation.

Christ the Good Shepherd Church posted a photo on their social media on Wednesday afternoon, showing a bunch of flowers and note from the archbishop, and expressing their gratitude for his “extended love, support, and prayers.”

i4Give Foundation founder Leila Abdallah posted a photo of Mar Emmanuel on Instagram with the message, “We are confident that Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel has forgiven his attacker, echoing the message of forgiveness that defines our beliefs. Our heart goes out to him.”

But some public reaction has been less irenic, with former priest and journalist Paul Bongiorno posting on X that Australians need to, “cut the bull dust.”

“Hate preachers beget hate. If this is what religious freedom is all about forget it,” Bongiorno wrote.

“Everyone is tiptoeing around the obvious … Terrorists are also in some pulpits.”

Christ the Good Shepherd Church has requested privacy for Mar Emmanuel and for the community to allow authorities to continue their investigation.

“We urge anyone present at the Liverpool Hospital to vacate the premises,” the post read.

The attacker was reportedly known to police, as he was on a good behaviour bond after facing court for a previous knife offence.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had convened a meeting of the National Security Subcommittee following the events.

Joined by AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw and ASIO director-general Mike Burgess, Albanese said there is “no place for violence in our community” and condemned the “disturbing” incident and scenes that unfolded afterwards.

Well-wishers lay flowers at the Wakeley church. Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

“We are a peace-loving nation. This is a time to unite, not divide, as a community and as a country.

“We understand the distress and concerns that are there in the community, particularly after the tragic event at Bondi Junction on Saturday.

“But it is not acceptable to impede and injure police doing their duty or to damage police vehicles in a way that we saw [on Monday night].”

Mar Emmanuel established Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley after separating from the Assyrian Ancient Church of the East.

He has garnered a mass following across TikTok, YouTube other social media over recent years for his controversial and outspoken positions on Islam, the pope, COVID lockdowns and gender issues.

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