Indonesia is on edge before Easter after church attack Indonesia news


Makassar and Medan, Indonesia – Christian communities across Indonesia brace for further attacks ahead of Easter Sunday following a suicide bombing at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Makassar, Sulawesi on Palm Sunday, which marks the start of Christian Holy Week.

“We invite all Catholic and Protestant congregations in Indonesia and around the world to pray for the people of Indonesia facing challenges such as terrorism and the COVID-19 pandemic as Easter approaches.” The head of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Indonesia, Bishop Robinson Butarbutar told Al Jazeera following the attack.

“Let us reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ as we continue our work to bring love and peace to all the people of Indonesia. We call on congregations to increase their vigilance before the Easter season and to work with local authorities and the Indonesian police.

Christians are considered a minority group in Indonesia where around 87% of the population is Muslim. There are approximately 23 million Christians in Indonesia out of a total population of 270 million.

Indonesia has a history of attacks on places of worship, including a series of church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000, which targeted cities like the capital Jakarta, as well as Medan in Sumatra and Batam, in the Riau Islands just south of Singapore, and were led by the extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) which was also responsible for the Bali bombing in 2002.

In 2018, three churches in the city of Surabaya were attacked by suicide bombers from the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) group killing 28 people. The suicide bombers included a husband and wife as well as their three children, the youngest of whom was nine years old.

Noor Huda Ismail, a former member of the radical group Darul Islam who has since founded the Institute for International Peacebuilding and runs de-radicalization programs and workshops across Indonesia, told Al Jazeera that ” ‘is not over yet’ and that the recent wave of attacks would likely continue during the Easter period and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on April 12, due to the religious significance of the two events.

An alleged attack on the national police headquarters in Jakarta further heightened tensions in Indonesia after a cathedral in Makassar was bombed last Sunday. [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

Although Ramadan is considered by many to be a peaceful month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, Huda said extremist groups “like to ‘hijack’ Islamic history where the Prophet has raided or raided. wars during Ramadan ”.

The Battle of Badr in 624 was fought by the Prophet during the month of Ramadan, as was the conquest of Mecca in 629 according to Islamic history.

Wednesday, the police shot dead an assailant wearing a blue scarf who entered the National Police headquarters in Jakarta, wielding a handgun.

Saved by the guard

Many churches in the archipelago already employ security guards, with local police providing additional support during major Christian calendar holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

One of those private security guards employed at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar is now hailed as a hero after preventing the two suicide bombers, who were on motorcycles, from entering the cathedral grounds.

“Cosmas suffered body injuries and ringing in the ears,” said Pastor Tulak, one of the cathedral priests who had just celebrated morning mass and was resting in his apartments at the time of the attack. .

“Cosmas is not our church’s primary security guard, but he always helps out when there are big celebrations. His father was a church security guard before him.

Tulak told Al Jazeera that Cosmas, 51, saw two people on motorcycles strolling outside the south door of the church. When the motorbike approached, Cosmas told the driver that he was not allowed to enter the church grounds.

“Unfortunately, that’s when the bomb went off,” Tulak added.

Armin Hari was about 300 meters (984 feet) from the explosion, awaiting the result of a rapid COVID-19 swab test at a local clinic, when he heard a thud that he initially mistook for a transformer exploding.

“Then I heard people around me panic and say something about a bomb,” he told Al Jazeera. Armin says he saw teeth strewn across the floor and what looked like mutilated organs. “I think it was a liver and lungs, or something,” he says.

The explosion injured 19 people and killed the two suspected suicide bombers, who are believed to be a husband and wife married seven months ago.

Indonesian National Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said the attackers were part of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) Network which was declared a terrorist organization by the United States in 2017 and banned in Indonesia in 2018.

A former JAD member, speaking on condition of anonymity, who was part of the group in West Java, told Al Jazeera that JAD is an offshoot of the ISIL Group (ISIS).

Police secure area around Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral after Sunday bombing [Eko Rusdianto/Al Jazeera]

“Simply put, the JAD ideology means that you have supported Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and committed to follow all directions of the IS leadership. You are taught to be hostile to infidels and to all rulers who do not want to apply Islamic law. According to Daesh, it is the perfect religion. “

He added, “The attack on the church in Makassar followed a similar pattern to the attacks on the church in Surabaya in 2018. When I was a member of the JAD, I was also ordered to watch a temple in Surabaya. and plan an attack there. . However, there were too many obstacles to the plan and so it failed. Places of worship have become the favorite target of the JAD because they are weakly guarded and there is a greater risk of mass casualties compared to police or military targets. “

In the city of Medan, north Sumatra, which has a large Christian population, a local priest and the head of the Simalingkar branch of HKBP, Sabar Simaremare, told Al Jazeera: “At the moment we have no not afraid because we have a caring and harmonious community around us. But we have already had security provided by the police and will ask for it again at Easter. “

“We want all of our siblings to stay safe at this time. We hope we can still pray together, we are humans too.





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