Sat. May 25th, 2024

Australian authorities have stood by their decision to classify the alleged stabbing of a bishop in a Sydney church by a 16-year-old as a “terrorist” act, sparking concerns among community leaders regarding its ramifications. The incident occurred during a live-streamed sermon in the Christian church of the Assyrian community located in western Sydney, where Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel sustained injuries to his head and chest. While the bishop survived the attack, he was promptly hospitalized.

The assailant was swiftly subdued and detained within the premises of Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley. Subsequently, a riot ensued outside the church as enraged congregants and community members voiced their anger, resulting in the injury of several police officers due to rocks being thrown, according to police statements.

New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb defended the characterization of the attack as religiously motivated extremism, asserting that the “terrorist” designation was made in accordance with state law shortly after the incident. The legislation from 2002 defines a terrorist act as one that causes harm, is motivated by political, religious, or ideological beliefs, and aims to instill fear in the public.

While Webb expressed confidence in the decision, she acknowledged the concerns raised by the community. She emphasized the importance of a thorough investigation into the motives behind the attack, noting that the designation does not necessarily entail terrorism charges for the perpetrator. Following the declaration, a joint counter-terrorism task force, comprising state and federal police forces along with the intelligence service ASIO, initiated an inquiry into the incident.

Community leaders, however, have questioned the swift categorization of the stabbing as terrorism. Gamel Kheir, secretary of the Lebanese Muslim Association, criticized the move, expressing skepticism about its contribution to the situation’s resolution. Kheir emphasized a disparity between community perceptions of terrorism and the application of terrorism legislation by law enforcement.

Moreover, concerns have been raised about potential repercussions on interfaith relations in the area. Dai Le, member of parliament for the Fowler electorate encompassing the church, voiced shock over the terrorism declaration, expressing apprehension that it could exacerbate existing tensions within the multi-faith community. Le called for a thorough assessment of the situation before making such determinations to avoid further escalation.

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