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What we know about stabbing of Assyrian bishop in Australia

A suspect was detained after allegedly stabbing Mar Mari Emmanuel at Christ the Good Shepherd Church west of Sydney, though the motive is not yet known.
Bishop Emmanuel

The bishop of a prominent Assyrian church in Australia was stabbed and hospitalized on Monday, causing anguish in the community. Police arrested an individual in relation to the incident but have not yet released information on the attacker's identity or motive.

What happened: At around 7:00 p.m. local Sydney time on Monday, Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was speaking at Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, about 35 kilometers (20 miles) west of downtown Sydney. As seen in a video that circulated on social media, a man wearing a black sweatshirt walked up to Emmanuel and then stabbed him repeatedly.

Emmanuel and three others were injured in the incident. Local health authorities said the bishop’s condition was listed as critical but stable in a nearby hospital. Police said they arrested a male at the scene, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

A crowd gathered outside of the church following the incident, with many shouting “bring him out” in reference to the assailant.

In a post on Instagram later Monday evening, Christ the Good Shepherd Church said Emmanuel and another clergyman named Father Isaac were in stable condition at the hospital.

Christ the Good Shepherd Church is an Assyrian church. Assyrian Christians originate from modern-day Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, and traditionally speak Aramaic. The western Sydney suburbs are home to large Middle Eastern communities. Around 40,000 Assyrians live in Australia. 

Christ the Good Shepherd Church offers communion to those baptized in Catholic and Orthodox churches. It does not list an affiliation with the Assyrian Church of the East or Orthodox churches, per its website.

Authorities have yet to release the name of the alleged attacker or any information on the motive.

Who is Bishop Emmanuel? Emmanuel is well known in Sydney’s Orthodox community. His sermons are widely shared online, and his church’s YouTube page has more than 197,000 subscribers. Emmanuel was ordained as a bishop in 2011, according to his church. The bishop is in his 50s and was born in Iraq before coming to Australia, according to reports. 

Emmanuel is known for his outspoken and controversial views. In a December interview, he stated his belief that God created the universe and expressed doubt about the theory of evolution.

“In the scientific field, if it’s a theory, I’m not obligated to accept it and believe it. Therefore, don’t force it on me,” he said.

Emmanuel gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic for being critical of lockdowns and vaccines. He has additionally made anti-LGBTQ remarks and claimed Satan founded the United Nations, among other things, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. 

Know more: A November video of Emmanuel addressing the Gaza war circulated on social media on Monday after news of the attack broke. Speaking of a trip he made to the enclave, he said residents told him they are "starving to death." He additionally lamented that many people in the region are not involved in the conflict.

"There [are] a lot of Palestinians [who have] nothing to do with what's happening there. They just want to live in peace. And I'm sure on the Israeli side as well," he said. "I pray that they come both to the lord Jesus."

It was not clear from the video when exactly Emmanuel visited Gaza.