11 killed as family of suicide bombers attacks three churches
Three Indonesian churches were attacked during worship services on Sunday in a series of coordinated explosions by suicide bombers that horrified the country’s Christian minority and Muslim majority alike. Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church, Surabaya Center Pentecostal Church, and Santa Maria Tak Berkeley Catholic Church—all in Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia— were bombed by six members of the same family.
A husband and wife used their four children to carry out a series of a deadly suicide attack, including two daughters, aged 9 and 12. The young girls were present when their mother detonated one of the bombs, and the couple’s two teenage sons carried out a separate attack on another church.
Reports indicated at least 11 people died in the Sunday morning attacks. Forty-one people, including two police officers, were hospitalized with injuries, The six bombers also died.
Investigators believe the parents belonged to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an Indonesian terrorist group aligned with ISIS. Through its Amaq News Agency, ISIS claimed responsibility for what it called “martyrdom attacks” in the port city on the east coast of Java Island but provided no proof to substantiate its claim.
Pope Francis called for prayers for the victims of the Indonesian suicide bombers after praying the noonday Regina Coeli in St. Peter Square.
“I’m particularly close to the dear people of Indonesia, especially to the Christian communities of the city of Surabaya, harshly stricken by the grave attack against places of worship,” Pope Francis said. “I elevate my prayer for the victims and their kin. We invoke together the God of peace so that He will make these violent actions cease and in the heart of all room be found for sentiments — not of hatred and violence — but of reconciliation and fraternity. We pray in silence.”
Indonesian Archbishop urges Christians not to fear
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko, Archbishop of Semarang, whose ecclesiastical province includes the diocese of Surabaya, commented:
“There had never been a similar attack in Surabaya. Indonesian Christians are desperate and terrified, but I told my faithful not to be afraid. This is precisely what the terrorists want, scare us.”
“Unfortunately in Indonesia we are more and more expand the scope of the fundamentalists,” the archbishop said. “ISIS especially has many supporters throughout the national territory and in particular the island of Java, home to Surabaya and Semarang. The situation may seem quiet at times, but then suddenly occurring attacks, just as happened yesterday. ”
Because of the danger of further attacks, Christians are being urged to be careful if during services they see people who normally do not attend that parish. Several churches are also planning to install security cameras. “Our people are afraid, but we pastors invite them constantly for calm. The terrorists want to scare us, but we must remain calm and pray for God to convert their hearts, “said Archbishop Rubiyatmoko.
He said the only positive result of this tragic situation is the solidarity shown by the local Islamic community and a general improvement in interfaith relations.