Assyrian bishop who was stabbed while preaching forgives attacker

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel is stabbed by a black-clad assailant while delivering a sermon at Christ the Good Shepherd Assyrian Orthodox Church outside Sydney, Australia.
Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel is stabbed by a black-clad assailant while delivering a sermon at Christ the Good Shepherd Assyrian Orthodox Church outside Sydney, Australia. | YouTube/Christ the Good Shepherd Church

An Australian bishop who was stabbed in the middle of a sermon during a church service on Monday and is recovering in the hospital has forgiven his alleged attacker. 

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, 53, has been in hospital since he was stabbed by a 15-year-old male while in the middle of a livestreamed service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley. A 39-year-old priest was also allegedly stabbed after attempting to intervene. Other churchgoers were hurt in the scuffle. All are expected to make full recoveries.

The bishop is now asking his supporters to emulate Jesus through "Christlike" behavior rather than engaging in vengeful words or actions following the attack.  

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The church released an audio statement from Emmanuel, who shared a message of hope from his hospital bed. He said he is recovering well, and he also advised his supporters to pray for his alleged attacker.

"I forgive whoever has done this act. And I say to him, 'You're my son. I love you and I will always pray for you.' And whoever sent you to do this, I forgive them as well, in Jesus's mighty name. I have nothing in my heart but love for everyone. Whether that person is a Christian or not, it's totally beside the point," Emmanuel said. 

"There is no need to be worried or concerned. And a piece of advice to all our beloved faithfuls — I need you to act Christlike. The Lord Jesus never taught us to fight. The Lord Jesus never taught us to retaliate. The Lord Jesus never said to us, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'"

The bishop's statement comes after tense protests erupted outside the church following the incident. The protests reportedly prompted hundreds of officers to respond to disperse the crowd. A photo circulated on X appeared to show that some of the teenage suspect's fingers had been cut off.

In his audio message, Emmanuel told his faithful, "We are Christians, and we need to act like it." 

"Love never fails, 1 Corinthians 13:8," he said. "Whatever has happened to me, I thank the Lord Jesus. It is a huge blessing for me."

Fr. Daniel Kochou spoke in a video on the church's Instagram page, saying the church doesn't condone the actions outside the church that day. He said the church preaches "love," even in difficult times. He said many people who were not members of the church "attended and caused a major disturbance."

"Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel preaches love and peace. However, the events that took place were quite the opposite," he said. "It's his wish that everyone resort to private prayer. Let's not escalate the matter. … The church is cooperating fully with New South Wales Police [while an] investigation is currently underway. We asked that whoever has any information in regards to the events which transpired on the 15th of April 2024 to please contact Crimestoppers or local police. We expect the public to cooperate with the authorities."

"We wish to express our sincere thanks to all the first responders for bringing calm and assistance to what was a horrific situation," Kochou added. "Above all, we have a lasting living and eternal God Jesus Christ of Nazareth [whom we thank] for His mercy and compassion for this team by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Police in Sydney, Australia, arrested a 15-year-old young man Monday for allegedly stabbing the priest and three others during the service at an Orthodox Assyrian Church.

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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