”IS has more and more supporters here”
“There has never been an attack like this before in Surabaya. Christians in Indonesia are feeling desperate and terrorised, but I have told my faithful not to be afraid. For that is precisely what the terrorists want – to make us frightened.” This was the message to ACN from Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko of Semarang, in whose ecclesiastical province the diocese of Surabaya is also situated.
The Archbishop described the reaction of the local Christian community, following the dramatic suicide attacks, which struck 3 Christian churches, one Catholic and two Protestants last Sunday. So far there are 11 known victims, three of them Catholics. It seems very likely that the attack, claimed by IS, was carried out by the members of a single family, who had recently returned from Syria. “Sadly, in Indonesia, we are seeing a continuing expansion in the actions of Islamic fundamentalists. IS, in particular, has many supporters throughout the country and in particular on the island of Java, where Surabaya and Semarang are both situated. Even though the situation may appear calm at any given time, such attacks can suddenly occur, just as happened last Sunday.”
Given the danger of new attacks, the Churches have called on their faithful to be vigilant and to be alert if they see people who do not normally attend their particular parish. In addition, a number of the churches intend to install video security cameras. “Our faithful are afraid, but we, their pastors, constantly call on them to remain calm. The terrorists are trying to scare us, but we must remain at peace and pray that God may convert their hearts”, Archbishop Rubiyatmoko told ACN.
The one positive feature of this tragic situation has been the solidarity shown by the local Islamic community and in general the improvement in interfaith relations. “Yesterday, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists gathered outside the archdiocese to pray together, and the same thing also happened in Jakarta”, the Archbishop added.
He concluded with an appeal (to the Italian Catholic community): “Pray for the people of Indonesia, and above all for us Christians. We are facing an extremely difficult moment because there are so many terrorists working in the shadows and hoping to frighten us away. Pray for us, that we may be able to live in peace and serenity.”
Marta Petrosillo – ACN Italy