Preparing for the end of days: Australia’s Christian terrorists

Wieambilla shooting declared a religiously motivated attack

Six people were shot dead on a rural Queensland farm two months ago as a result of Christian fundamentalism, it has been found – the first case in modern times.

Police will now explore links between the family who prepared for murder and doomsday and American evangelical believers, a demographic experts say has high potential for radicalism.

Nathaniel, Gareth and Stacey Train wore camouflage and armed themselves with bows and arrows and knives and waited for police officers to arrive at their Wieambilla property 300 kilometres from Brisbane.

A neighbour, Alan Dare, also died in the attack.

Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner Tracy Linford said the family were bound by a belief in a Christian theology that states the world will undergo major upheaval before the second coming of Christ.

“We don’t believe this attack was random or spontaneous,” Deputy Police Commissioner Linford said.

Links to American groups

“(They) acted as an autonomous cell and executed a religiously motivated terrorist attack.

“The Train family members subscribe to what we’ll call a broad Christian fundamentalist belief system known as pre-millennialism.”

Police are now exploring a link to the United States and say they have seen social media videos featuring a man known only as Dan who spoke of the family before the shooting.

The Branch Davidians, a sect that claimed lineage with Seventh Day Adventists, were involved in a 50-day violent stand-off in Waco, Texas, which killed six of their followers and four police.

And America’s Army of God, a similarly decentralised group of violent anti-abortion activists has been linked to the murder of several doctors. 

The boss of the domestic spy agency ASIO told Senate Estimates this week that right-wing violent extremism, which previously took up about half the agency’s time, had receded slightly in the wake of COVID.

“The volatility has reduced somewhat [now that] we’re not subject to mandates,” he said.

Elizabeth Neumann, a top former American homeland security official, has warned of the potential radicalisation of evangelical believers who were often nationalists with a “strong authoritarian streak” and desire for conflict. 

Gareth Train’s social media postings appear to draw on a range of American Christian influences and a separate but often coincident ideology known as the Sovereign Citizen Movement.

Police were ‘monsters’

Deputy Commissioner Linford said the family members saw uniformed officers as “monsters” and were motivated by their religious, not political, inclinations most of all.

“There was a belief that Christ will return to the Earth and provide peace and prosperity,” she said.

“But it will be preceded by an era, or a period of time of tribulation, widespread destruction and suffering. They started preparing for the end of days.”

The pandemic had radicalised the Train family, especially after two of them lost jobs at a local school because they refused to be vaccinated, she said.

“They certainly had their views around anti-vaccination and, as a consequence of that, anti-government.”

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