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Family leaves home after teenager accused of stabbing at church

The teenager’s family has relocated from their residence due to intense media attention and threats of retaliation against Islamic religious centers.

An adolescent detained for a stabbing at a church in western Sydney remains hospitalized as law enforcement increases presence in the area amidst brewing tensions surrounding the purportedly religiously motivated assault.

The attack at Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley left Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and a priest hospitalized after a knife-wielding assailant struck during a livestreamed sermon.

Although labeled as an act of terrorism, the alleged perpetrator—a 16-year-old with a history of knife-related offenses—has not yet been formally charged.

He is currently under police supervision in the hospital and is expected to stay there for several days, stated NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb.

The incident met the criteria for terrorism classification, offering law enforcement added powers, but it is uncertain if the teenager will face terrorism-related charges, according to Webb.

The family of the teenager has vacated their home amidst intense media scrutiny and threats of retaliatory attacks on Islamic religious sites in the aftermath of the stabbing at the Assyrian Christian church.

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Lebanese Muslim Association secretary Gamel Kheir mentioned that the boy’s father was devastated and noticed no warning signs before the stabbing.

“[The father] was distraught … he would not go home, he was too scared to go home,” Mr. Kheir revealed.

“Did he see the signs? He said no.

“All he saw was a troublesome teenager who wasn’t listening to his father.”

However, the community refuses to allow division into their hearts.

“We’re all suffering, we’re all feeling the pain … our communities are on edge as it is, the last thing we needed was this,” Mr. Kheir emphasized.

He also urged the establishment of a secure environment where potentially troubled youths in the community could receive guidance and supervision to prevent the development of radical ideologies.

“We’re not denying that we have a problem … we’re not going to bury our heads in the sand either,” he affirmed.

Ms. Webb also advocated for community unity, characterizing the events at the church as “one person acting alone and not about one community versus another”.

The stabbing led to a disturbance outside the church, with some worshippers attempting to reach the attacker who was held inside the church at the time.

This chaotic situation resulted in 47 police officers sustaining injuries and numerous vehicles being vandalized, while several paramedics sought shelter in the church.

“We believe that individuals not connected to the church arrived as an excuse and incited a riot involving law enforcement,” Ms. Webb declared.

Surveillance footage from CCTV, police body cameras, helicopters, and DNA testing of vehicles is being utilized to identify the culprits.

On Wednesday evening (April 17), authorities confirmed the apprehension of a 19-year-old man from Doonside in connection to the public disorder incident.

Premier Chris Minns announced an increased police presence in western Sydney and around places of worship to address the volatile conditions prevailing.

Federal officials convened for a National Security Committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon (April 17) to evaluate the alleged terrorist act.

“Violent extremism has no place in this country,” remarked Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Videos of the assault and ensuing riots circulated widely on social media.

Threats have been directed towards Lakemba Mosque, one of Australia’s largest Muslim places of worship, following the church incident.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils condemned the stabbing as a heinous act.

“Such an act of brutality stands in stark opposition to our cherished values of peace, empathy, and reciprocal respect,” it conveyed in a statement urging community members to assist with the police investigation.

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