“THERE HAS never been an attack like this before in Surabaya. Christians in Indonesia are feeling desperate and terrorized, 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 from Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko of Semarang, which is part of the same ecclesiastical province as the Diocese of Surabaya.
The archbishop described the reaction of the local Christian community, following the dramatic suicide attacks May 13, 2018, which struck one Catholic and two Protestants churches. So far there are 11 known victims who died, three of them Catholics. It appears that the attack, claimed by ISIS, was carried out by the members of a single family, who had recently returned from Syria.
Archbishop Rubiyatmoko said: “Sadly, in Indonesia we are seeing a continuing expansion of the actions of Islamic fundamentalists. ISIS in particular has many supporters throughout the country and in particular on the island of Java, where Surabaya and Semarang are both located. 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 Church has called on 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,” the archbishop said.
The one positive feature of this tragic situation has been the solidarity shown by the local Islamic community and the improvement in general of interfaith relations. “Yesterday, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists gathered outside the archdiocesan headquarters to pray together, and the same thing also happened in Jakarta,” the archbishop said.
He concluded with an appeal: “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.”