Sydney church attacks spark fears

No further violence was reported last night, but four churches in Sydney's southwest have been attacked in 24-hours as the city's volatile riots spreads from race to religion.

CLICK HEREThe Australian reports that a community hall linked to a Uniting Church was burned to the ground early yesterday, carol singers were spat on and church buildings peppered with gunfire.

On Tuesday, Cardinal George Pell asked gangs of Middle Eastern descent not to target Christmas celebrations, after families were abused and gunshots fired into cars at a primary school's carols night in western Sydney on Monday.

Cardinal Pell said the attack in the multicultural suburb of Auburn, where Lebanese Muslims are believed to have turned on Lebanese Christians, was "apparently motivated by religious intolerance".

He said: "I am deeply concerned about the targeting of Christmas celebrations at schools for students as young as five years old.

In response to yesterday's Uniting Church incident, members of the Arab Christian and Arab Muslim communities have called for a curfew for all Lebanese youths over the weekend.

Police believe the attack on the hall, in the suburb of Auburn, was intended to destroy the Uniting Church adjacent, while nearby St Thomas's Anglican Church, which has a primarily Chinese congregation, had all its front windows smashed. Three of the attacks were on churches within minutes of each other.

The night before, Molotov cocktails were used in an attack on an Anglican Church in Macquarie Fields in the city's far southwest.

Arab Christians have suggested the attacks on churches may have been meant as a violent attempt to "shame" the city's Lebanese Christian community into supporting Lebanese Muslims in the race-hate war, which began as a battle against young white males over use of suburban beaches.

CathNews reported yesterday that the Bishop of Sydney's Maronite Catholic community, Bishop Ad Abikaram, issued a statement saying that he is appalled by the race violence of the past week, and that he fully supports the Government and Police in their efforts to apprehend the perpetrators.

"As Bishop of the Maronite Catholic Church of Australia, I am compelled to speak out on the tragic events of the past few days," he said in the statement. "With my fellow-Australians, I am appalled at the violence perpetrated. We support the Government and the Police in their efforts to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice."

Church attacks spark fears (The Australian 15/12/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
NSW Police

Pell tells race gangs that Christmas is sacred (CathNews 14/12/05)
Maronite bishop denounces Sydney violence (CathNews 14/12/05)
Pell calls race mob action a disgrace (CathNews 13/12/05)

Religious leaders call for racial tensions to be addressed (ABC Radio The World Today 14/12/05)
Maronite bishop: We must act as community (Catholic Weekly 18/12/05)
Religious leaders call for calm (The Australian/Australian Associated Press 14/12/05)
Now churches are targeted (The Australian 15/12/05)

Note: The production of this story was affected by an extended Internet access outage.

15 Dec 2005