Five men interrupted an evening mass at the Anglican Parish of Gosford on Saturday, in what the church's archdeacon of the Central Coast, Father Rod Bower, has labeled an act of terrorism.
"This was a terrorist act that was politically motivated," Bower told BuzzFeed News.
Bower explained that midway through his 6pm mass on Saturday evening, the group of five men, one of whom was dressed as Jesus and another as a Roman soldier, stormed into the small church holding a whip, a megaphone, and a sword that was later revealed to be fake.
"I didn't know it was fake, though," said Bower, "and neither did any parishioners."
The men – who appear to be linked to the small, right-wing stunt group Cooks Convicts – later uploaded footage of the incident to Facebook. It shows a half-full room reacting in shock to the men's arrival, with some screaming in fear.
"This was more intimidating than 2016," said Bower, referencing an incident that saw a dozen anti-Islamic protesters storm the Gosford church. "It was violent – not physically violent – but it was a smaller space and it was definitely more intimidating."
In a media release on Monday, Bower labeled the incident an act of terrorism, saying the group of men were to Christianity what ISIS is to Islam.
"Imagine if this was Muslims holding a sword, even a fake one, storming a church," Bower told BuzzFeed News. "They'd very likely be in jail and it would be all over the tabloids today."
An NSW Police media spokesperson told BuzzFeed News the police arrived at the church shortly after the incident and spoke with a number of people. No charges have been laid and police are continuing inquiries.
Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Brad Esposito at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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