The Sydney-based Daily Telegraph – a News Corp outlet unrelated to the Telegraph Media Group newspaper of the same name – reports the couple were attacked while riding the train through “Muslim enclaves” in south-west Sydney.
Mike, who asked for his surname to be withheld for fear he might be targeted, said that four men of Middle Eastern appearance ripped his cross from his neck, stomped on it, and rained kicks and punches on his face, back, and shoulders. Two women attacked his girlfriend when she tried to protect him.
Five uniformed transport officers watched the attack take place but failed to intervene, Mike claimed, leaving the police to meet the train at a later station.
“I was born in Australia of Greek heritage,” Mike told the Telegraph. “I’ve always worn my cross. For [them] 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.”
Mike went to Greek community leader and former Sutherland Shire Council deputy mayor Reverend George Capsis, who believes Christians in Sydney face growing persecution at the hands of Muslim gangs, about the attack.
“This is not an isolated incident,” said Rev Capsis, who explained that Mike was the fourth Christian to have come to him about a religiously-motivated attack in just the last six months.
“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.”
Like Mike, the three previous victims who went to Rev Capsis said they were assaulted around public transport in the south-west of the city.
“It’s like their territory,” he said. “They don’t want Christians or other types of infidels there.”
The minister believes that the problem has to be “nipped in the bud” but, in the absence of any robust action from the authorities, he can only advise Christians to hide their faith in the presence of Muslims, so they do not feel “provoked”.
“People like Greek Orthodox carry a big cross,” he explained. “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?”
A police spokesman said: “The incident [had] prompted police to remind the community that any bias-motivated crime will not be tolerated.” He said the incident was still under investigation.
Sydney Trains defended the transports officers who stood by as the attack took place, telling the Telegraph their main responsibility is tackling fare evasion and that they are trained to observe from a “safe space” if passengers are assaulted.
“Why are ticket inspections deemed more important than passenger safety?” commentedTelegraph journalist Miranda Devine.
“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.”
Rev Capsis believes that, “If this keeps up, someone will be hurt.”