April 9, 2017
WHILE we constantly are lectured about Islamophobic violence, despite little evidence of its existence, there is official silence about its flip side: religiously motivated attacks on Christians.
Reverend George Capsis says Mike is the fourth Christian to have complained to him about a religiously motivated attack in the past six months. “You don’t hear about it because no one’s reporting it,” he says. (Pic: News Corp)
One Greek community leader, Rev George Capsis, has gone so far as to warn Christians not to wear overt religious symbols when they are travelling though Muslim enclaves of southwestern Sydney.
But last Tuesday afternoon, 30-year-old Greek Orthodox Christian, Mike, discovered too late the risks of wearing a large cross outside his clothing while travelling on the train from Campsie to Bankstown with his girlfriend.
He says he was minding his own business talking on his mobile phone, when four young men of Middle Eastern appearance allegedly violently ripped the crucifix off his neck, and stomped on it while swearing “F*** Jesus” and referring to “Allah”.
He says they punched him and kicked him in his face, back and shoulders during the attack which began about 3pm, just after the train left Belmore station.
When his girlfriend tried to defend him, two Arabic-speaking women also allegedly hit and kicked her.
The crucifix, which his mother had given him, was bent, and the silver chain broken in two places.
“I was born in Australia of Greek heritage,” says Mike. “I’ve always worn my cross. For him to rip it off and step on it has to be a religious crime… It’s not on to feel unsafe in your own country.”
He says the men also destroyed his Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Mike has a doctor’s report cataloguing his injuries, which include abrasions and bruises on his face, left shoulder, and upper and lower back.
He claims that five uniformed railway “Transport Officers” watched the attack and did nothing to help him, although police were waiting for the train when it reached Bankstown station.
Two police officers took the names of three alleged assailants and a statement from Mike, photographed his injuries, told him they would review CCTV footage from the train and that he should expect a letter in a month, which may require his attendance at court.
Mike’s face was cut during what he says was a religiously-motivated attack on a Sydney train last week. (Pic: Supplied)
After the assault, Mike was so shaken up that he contacted Baptist minister Rev Capsis, a pillar of the local Greek community, and former deputy mayor of Sutherland Shire Council.
Capsis claims Mike is the fourth Christian who has complained to him of a religiously-motivated attack in the past six months.
“This is not an isolated incident. There are gangs of these young fellows of Muslim background who have been harassing people they identify as Christian… You don’t hear about it because no one’s reporting it.”
The other three attacks Capsis says have occurred around public transport in southwest Sydney: “It’s like their territory; they don’t want Christians or other types of infidels there…
“People like Greek Orthodox carry a big cross. I tell them to be practical and if they’re in those areas and wearing a big cross and a group of young guys comes, hide it in your shirt. Why provoke it?
“If this keeps up, someone will be hurt. It’s got to be nipped in the bud.”
Mike says his cross necklace was torn from his neck and stomped on by attackers he says said “F*** Jesus”. (Pic: Supplied)
After our media inquiries, police contacted Mike and reinterviewed him yesterday.
A spokeswoman confirmed that detectives from Bankstown Local Area Command are investigating “reports of alleged religiously-motivated abuse on a Sydney train this week”.
“The incident has prompted police to remind the community that any bias-motivated crime will not be tolerated.”
Sydney Trains yesterday defended the inaction of its Transport Officers, with a spokesman saying they are not authorised to intervene in assaults and their primary responsibilities are customer service and fare evasion.
If an incident takes place, such as the attack on Mike, they are trained to stand back in a “safe space” to observe, and contact police, if necessary.
He confirmed that Transport Officers conducting operations on a train between Campsie and Bankstown stations on April 4 “requested Police assistance in response to a physical altercation between two groups of people”.
Apart from the fact that this description of an unprovoked attack of six people against two is a curious downplaying of its seriousness, why are ticket inspections deemed more important than passenger safety? Surely, if taxpayers fund dedicated Transport Officers to ride the trains all day, they should be authorised to do more than just observe crimes and call police. Anyone can do that.
In any case, Mike says he and his girlfriend are now too scared to catch the train.
He doesn’t want his surname published because he fears for his safety, but has decided to speak out because he wants the attack to be taken seriously.
“It’s a multicultural society. I don’t attack anyone’s beliefs but if they attack me for no reason, justice has to be served.”
There have been isolated reports of anti-Christian abuse in recent years, such as churchgoers in Sydney’s west copping death threats from men driving past in a car bearing the Islamic State flag.
Christians also increasingly are fair game for intimidation by the militant LGBTI lobby, but for the most part, Christophobia is downplayed.
When the Australian Christian Lobby was car-bombed late last year, for instance, ACT police within hours made the extraordinary declaration that the attack was not religiously, ideologically or politically motivated.
And, while the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has reported a 10 per cent increase in anti-Semitic threats or acts of violence last year alone, the only religious bigotry we hear about is Islamophobia.
Police take it so seriously that during the Lindt cafe siege, they launched Operation Hammerhead to combat “bias crime” against Muslims, which didn’t occur. While the lives of the hostages were still at risk, hashtag activists sprang to the defence of theoretical victims of Islamophobia with the “I’ll ride with you” hashtag.
But there are no hashtags for Christians like Mike when they ride on Sydney trains.