Knife attack in Australian church, treated as terrorism, stirs intercultural tensions

(Photo: REUTERS / David Gray)A man wearing an Islamic prayer cap, or "Kufi", looks at Islamic books on display at a bookshop located in the western Sydney suburb of Lakemba October 3, 2014. Last month, the national security agency raised its four-tier threat level to "high" for the first time and about 900 police launched raids on homes in Sydney's predominantly Muslim western suburbs and in Brisbane. Only about half a million people out of Australia's 23.5 million are Muslims, making them a tiny fraction in a country where the final vestiges of the "White Australia" policy were only abolished in 1973, allowing large scale non-European migration. At least half of Australia's Muslims live in Sydney's western suburbs, which were transformed in the mid-1970s from white working-class enclaves into majority-Muslim outposts by a surge of immigration from Lebanon. Picture taken October 3, 2014

Australian police said a knife attack in Sydney that wounded a bishop and a priest during a service as horrified worshippers watched online and in person, and in the church, which triggered a riot, was an act of terrorism.

Police arrested a 16-year-old boy on April 16 after the stabbing at Christ the Good Shepherd Church that injured Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and a priest. Both survived, The Associated Press reported.

At least four people were injured in the terrifying rampage midway through the service by the attacker, who was said to be a young Islamist, the UK newspaper The Daily Mail online reported.

A 16-year-old boy was charged after police said the attack was being treated as a religiously motivated 'terrorist act.

New South Wales state Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the suspect's comments pointed to a religious motive for the attack, according to the AP.

"We'll allege there's a degree of premeditation on the basis that this person has traveled to that location, which is not near his residential address, he has traveled with a knife, and subsequently, the bishop and the priest have been stabbed," Webb said. "They're lucky to be alive."

The Australian newspaper ran a headline, "Wakeley is merely Islam's latest attack against Christianity.

The newspaper commented, "While Australia is becoming ever more multicultural, Christianity and religious freedom are disappearing from the Islamic world."


The teen was known to police but was not on a terror watch list, said police commissioner Webb.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the country's domestic spy agency, and Federal Police joined state police in a counter-terrorism task force to investigate who else was potentially involved.

The Christ the Good Shepherd in the Wakeley suburb streams sermons online and worshippers watched as a person in black clothes approached the altar and stabbed the bishop and priest Isaac Royel during a church service the day before.

The congregation overpowered the attacker, police said.

Back in Britain, the Daily Mail reported that two police officers visited the home of a devout local Christian after he told his local priest that Christians must 'rise up and take a stand' the day after a bishop was stabbed by a teenage Islamist in a Sydney church.

Jonjo Hooper blasted the police and said it was the end of freedom of speech in the UK after they attended his home in Hastings, Sussex, along with a mental health volunteer following his 'private conversation' with his priest about the incident.

Hooper was overheard speaking on April 16 to the church minister at St. John the Evangelist Church, in Hastings, England the morning after Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel appeared to be repeatedly knifed in the head and body at the Christ the Good Shepherd church in Sydney.

At least four people were injured in the terrifying rampage midway through the service which Hooper had been watching live at home.

Churchgoers also claimed he used the Islamic phrase 'Allahu Akbar' repeatedly.

Less than 24 hours after Hooper confided in his priest, two Sussex Police officers and a senior NHS mental health worker confronted the 34-year-old at his home in what he described as an act of "Christianophobia.".

An angry Hooper told MailOnline:" Free speech died a long time ago in this country, in my opinion. There's no such thing as free speech. You're allowed to speak freely, but it's at your own risk."

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