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Indonesia on edge ahead of Easter after church bombing

Makassar and Medan, Indonesia – Christian communities throughout Indonesia are bracing for additional assaults ahead of Easter Sunday following a suicide bombing on the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, Sulawesi on Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of the Christian Holy Week.

“We invite all Catholics and Protestant congregations in Indonesia and around the world to pray for the Indonesian people facing challenges including terrorism and the COVID-19 pandemic in the lead up to Easter.” the top of Indonesia’s Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP), Bishop Robinson Butarbutar instructed Al Jazeera following the assault.

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

Christians are thought-about a minority group in Indonesia the place about 87 % of the inhabitants is Muslim. There are about 23 million Christians in Indonesia out of a complete inhabitants of 270 million.

Indonesia has a historical past of assaults on homes of worship, together with a spate of church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000, which focused cities together with the capital Jakarta, in addition to Medan in Sumatra and Batam, within the Riau islands simply south of Singapore, and had been carried out by the hardline group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) which was additionally chargeable for the 2002 Bali bombing.

In 2018, three church buildings within the metropolis of Surabaya had been attacked by suicide bombers from the group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) leaving 28 folks lifeless. The suicide bombers included a husband and spouse in addition to their three youngsters, the youngest of whom was 9 years outdated.

Noor Huda Ismail, a former member of the hardline group Darul Islam who has since based the Institute for International Peace Building and runs deradicalisation programmes and workshops throughout Indonesia, instructed Al Jazeera that “The party isn’t over yet” and that the current spate of assaults would in all probability proceed over the Easter interval and throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on 12 April, because of the non secular significance of each occasions.

A suspected assault on the National Police Headquarters in Jakarta has additional raised tensions in Indonesia following the bombing of a cathedral in Makassar final Sunday [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

Even although Ramadan is seen by many as a peaceable month by which Muslims quick from dawn to sundown, Huda mentioned that extremist teams “like to ‘hijack’ Islamic history where the Prophet conducted raids or wars during Ramadan”.

The Battle of Badr in 624 was waged by the Prophet throughout the month of Ramadan, as was the conquest of Mecca in 629 in accordance with Islamic historical past.

On Wednesday, police shot lifeless an attacker in a blue headband who entered the National Police Headquarters in Jakarta brandishing a handgun.

Saved by guard

Many church buildings throughout the archipelago already make use of safety guards, with native police offering further help round predominant holidays within the Christian calendar resembling Easter and Christmas.

One such personal safety guard employed on the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, is now being hailed as a hero after stopping the 2 suicide bombers, who had been on a motorcycle, from getting into the cathedral grounds.

“Cosmas sustained injuries to his body and ringing in his ears,” mentioned Pastor Tulak, one of the clergymen on the Cathedral who had simply carried out morning mass and was resting in his chambers on the time of the assault.

“Cosmas is not the main security guard at our church, but he always helps when there are large celebrations. His father was a security guard at the church before him.”

Tulak instructed Al Jazeera that 51-year-old Cosmas had seen two folks on a motorcycle loitering in entrance of the south gate of the church. When the motorcycle approached, Cosmas instructed the driving force that he was not allowed to enter the church grounds.

“Unfortunately, that is when the bomb exploded,” added Tulak.

Armin Hari was about 300 metres (984 ft) away from the explosion, ready for the consequence of a COVID-19 speedy swab check at an area clinic, when he heard a loud thud which he initially mistook for a transformer exploding.

“Then I heard people around me panicking and saying something about a bomb,” he instructed Al Jazeera. Armin says that he noticed tooth scattered on the bottom and what appeared like mutilated organs. “I think it was a liver and some lungs, or something like that,” he mentioned.

The blast injured 19 folks and killed the 2 suspected suicide bombers, considered a husband and spouse who had married seven months in the past.

Indonesia’s National Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo mentioned that the attackers had been half of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) community which was declared a terrorist organisation by the United States in 2017 and banned in Indonesia in 2018.

A former member of JAD, talking on the situation of anonymity, who was half of the group in West Java, instructed Al Jazeera that JAD is an offshoot of the ISIL (ISIS) group.

Police safe the realm across the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral after Sunday’s bombing [Eko Rusdianto/Al Jazeera]

“Simply put, the JAD ideology means you supported Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and pledge to carry out all directions from ISIS leaders. You are taught to be hostile to infidels and all rulers who do not want to apply Islamic law. According to ISIS, this is the perfect religion.”

He added: “The attack on the church in Makassar followed a similar pattern to the church attacks in Surabaya in 2018. When I was a member of JAD, I was also ordered to carry out surveillance on a temple in Surabaya and plan an attack there. However, there were too many obstacles to the plan so it fell through. Places of worship have become JAD’s favourite target because they are weakly guarded and there is greater likelihood of mass casualties as opposed to police or military targets.”

In town of Medan, North Sumatra, which has a big Christian inhabitants, native priest and the top of the Simalingkar department of HKBP, Sabar Simaremare, instructed Al Jazeera that, “At the moment, we do not feel scared because we have a caring and harmonious community around us. But we have previously had security provided by the police and we will request it again this Easter.”

“We want all our brothers and sisters to keep safe at this time. We hope we can still pray together, we are humans too.”

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