Assyrian bishop loses sight in eye after being stabbed during sermon

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel of Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, Australia, preaches a sermon on April 29, 2024.
Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel of Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, Australia, preaches a sermon on April 29, 2024. | YouTube/Christ The Good Shepherd Church

An Assyrian bishop stabbed while preaching a sermon at a church in Wakeley, Australia, earlier this month says he has suffered visual impairment in one of his eyes due to the incident. 

Two weeks after the April 15 stabbing, Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel addressed the crowd gathered at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley during a Sunday evening service. 

The bishop wore an eyepatch over his right eye as he shared an Arabic and English sermon.

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During his Arabic sermon, Emmanuel put his eye injury into perspective by stating that the eye could be viewed as a "sacrifice," The Guardian translated him as saying. He also said it should be taken as a gesture of love to Muslims. Emmanuel shared that he forgives his attacker. 

"I will always pray for you; I will always wish you nothing but the best," Emmanuel said.

Emmanuel was stabbed in the middle of a sermon during a church service. The 53-year-old spent several days following the stabbing recovering in the hospital.  

The clergyman shared his thoughts on freedom of speech as a legal battle between the Australian government and the social media site X, formerly called Twitter, has erupted in recent days. X and its owner, Elon Musk, have stated they will contest an Australian government order that the platform remove video showing the attack on the bishop. The platform faces daily fines of $500,000.

"I say to our beloved, the Australian government and our beloved prime minister, the honorable Mr. Albanese. … Every human being has the right to their freedom of speech and freedom of religion, every human being," Emmanuel said. 

"The Buddhist has the right to express their belief; the Hindus have the right to express their beliefs; the Muslims have the right to express their beliefs; the atheists have the right to express their beliefs. Also, the Christians have the right to express their beliefs," he added, according to The Guardian.  

"For us to say that free speech is dangerous, that free speech cannot be possible in a democratic country, I'm yet to fathom this. We should be able as civilized human beings, as intellectuals, we should be able to criticize, to speak and maybe at some certain times, we may sound, or we may come across offensive to somewhat degree, but we should be able to say I should not worry for my life to be exposed to threat or to be taken away."

Emmanuel added, "a non-Christian can criticize my faith, can attack my faith [but], I will say one thing: may god forgive you and may God bless you."  

"This is a civilized way, an intellectual way, of approaching such events if or when they take place," he said.

This isn't the first time Emmanuel has expressed his willingness to forgive his attacker.  Days after the incident, the church released an audio statement from Emmanuel sharing a message of hope. At the time, Emmanuel said he was recovering well, and he also advised his supporters to pray for the 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 in the audio statement. 

The bishop's statement came just days after tense protests erupted outside the church following the incident, prompting hundreds of officers to respond to disperse the crowd. There were reports of demonstrators turning violent on police. 

"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 bishop said. "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.'"

Police arrested at least five people for their alleged involvement in the protest violence. 

The 16-year-old boy accused of stabbing the bishop has been charged with a terrorism offense. The teen's identity has not been released. Last week, law enforcement in Australia arrested seven teenagers accused of being part of an extremist network that the 16-year-old suspect is allegedly a part of.

Four teens were charged last Thursday with conspiring to plan a terror attack on Jews days after the church attack, according to The Associated Press.

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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