Man arrested over Wakeley church riot as tensions high

People must feel safe and secure when they go to worship, the NSW premier and faith leaders say.

People must feel safe and secure when they go to worship, the NSW premier and faith leaders say. Photo: AAP

A second man has been charged over a violent street riot outside the Wakeley church in south-west Sydney where an alleged ‘terrorism’ stabbing happened on Monday.

Officers from Strike Force Dribs executed a search warrant on Friday evening at a home in Thorsby Street, Fairfield Heights.

A 45-year-old man was arrested at the scene and taken to Fairfield Police Station where he was charged with two offences — riot and threaten violence, cause fear.

He has been refused bail to appear in Parramatta Bail Court on Saturday.

The arrest comes as faith leaders call for calm to quell simmering community tensions in western Sydney following the stabbing at a church and an ensuing street riot.

A 16-year-old boy was on Thursday charged over the stabbing.

On Wednesday a 19-year-old man was the first to be charged over the riot.

Police hope high-visibility patrols in the region will kerb conflict after the knife-wielding teenager allegedly struck Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, 53, who was delivering a sermon on Monday night.

The stabbing — which has since been declared an act of terrorism — triggered a riot outside the Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley leaving dozens of police officers injured.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said investigators believed the attack met the criteria of a terrorist act, but he refused to go into further detail.

The lawyer of the boy charged over the stabbing told a court the teenager has had intermittent treatment for his mental health for years.

After multiple meetings with religious leaders this week, NSW Premier Chris Minns called for calm and cohesion following a week of “deep loss and pain”.

“Many are experiencing fear, trauma and grief as the result of senseless acts of violence,” he said in a joint statement alongside the Faith Affairs Council.

“During the next few days people of faith will come together in their places of worship … to pray, to care and to heal.

“They must be able to do so feeling safe and secure (and) we must all ensure that no one feels intimidated when attending their places of worship.”

Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups have issued separate statements calling for calm.

The Jewish Council of Australia, the Islamophobia Register Australia, and the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations warned against the spread of misinformation.

“We must reject any attempts to use these incidents to perpetuate anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or any form of racism, hatred or intolerance,” a joint statement read.

“Instead, we must come together to support one another, amplify facts over falsehoods, and demonstrate the strength of our shared values of inclusivity and mutual understanding.”

“Now is the time to work towards ensuring that Sydney is a place where people of all backgrounds and religions can feel safe, welcomed, and empowered to build a better future together.”

-with AAP

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