Fear grips Yogyakarta after church attack

YOGYAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - “Glory be to God on high, and on Earth peace to men of good will.”

Dozens of Catholics sang the hymn during a peaceful Mass at St. Lidwina, a small church in Sleman regency, around 10 kilometers from Yogyakarta, on Sunday morning.

The song was never finished because a young man named Suliyono, who was later identified as a college student from Banyuwangi, East Java, suddenly broke through the church door and attacked the congregation with a one-meter-long sword.

He then ran toward the altar, approaching Catholic priest Karl Edmund Prier SJ, who was leading Mass. The assailant attacked the priest in the back of the head before slashing statues of Mary and Jesus near the altar.

After around 10 minutes, the man’s rampage was finally stopped when Adj. First Insp. Munir, an officer from the Gamping Police, shot at his feet twice. Before shooting, Munir had tried to negotiate and asked Suliyono to surrender, but he attacked the police instead.

Sleman Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Muchamad Firman Lukmanul Hakim said the police were still investigating the incident, including the motives for the attack.

“We still don’t know how many people were involved in the attack,” he said. One police officer and four congregation members were wounded in the attack.

Living in a house only several meters away from St. Lidwina church, Muslim intellectual Ahmad Syafi’i Maarif, who is also a pluralism defender, condemned the terror act, saying that anyone involved in the attack was influenced by a “garbage culture”, which did not believe in tolerance.

“This is so barbaric. The police must find out the main people involved,” he said at the church, not long after the incident took place.

Head of Semarang Archdiocese’s Justice and Peace Commission, Pastor Endra Wijayanto, said they condemned the St. Lidwina attack and urged the police to investigate the case thoroughly.

Sunday’s attack occurred just two weeks after a group of people forced the St. Paulus Catholic church in Pringgolayan, Bantul regency, Yogyakarta, to cancel its social care program, accusing the church of using the activity to Christianize communities in the surrounding areas.

It also happened only four days after Bhikkhu Mulyanto Nurhalim, the leader of a Buddhist community in Caringin village, Tangerang regency, Banten, was intimidated by residents who did not want him and his followers to perform Buddhist rituals at his home. They forced the priest to write a letter expressing his willingness to stop the religious activity, and read it to the public.

In striking contrast, 450 religious figures from across Indonesia gathered from Thursday to Saturday in Jakarta to attend a conference of religious leaders for religious harmony.

Muhammad Sirajuddin “Din” Syamsuddin, the President’s special envoy for religious harmony, said the conference aimed to maintain the ethics of harmony. So, no matter how different the concept of God and worship was in each religion, followers of all religions in Indonesia should be able to unite in humanity.

Speaking on the last day of the conference on Saturday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said Indonesia was known as a good example of how a vastly diverse nation could also have great values of tolerance.

“Indonesia has shown that as the country with the largest Muslim population, it can put forward moderate Islam. This is one example of our success in protecting the spirit of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika,” said Jokowi, referring to the national motto, which means “Unity in Diversity”.

The President asked all religious leaders to work hand-in-hand with the government to build an Indonesia that was more tolerant and much stronger.

Din, who is also a former chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), said what Indonesia needed most after the conference was real work.

“For us who have just finished a conference on interfaith dialogue for national harmony, the incident at St. Lidwina church was a real setback for us. The incident happened just after we had been discussing harmony,” said Din, during the World Interfaith Harmony Week celebration on Sunday.

Din related the St. Lidwina incident to two separate attacks on two Islamic leaders in Bandung, West Java, two weeks ago. One attack killed Pratowo, the leader of the central executive board of the Persatuan Islam (Persis) Muslim group, and the other wounded Umar Basri, leader of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

“These are not ordinary incidents and are proof that there are people who want to disturb the harmony and stability within this nation,” said the former chairman of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Islamic organization.

Human rights advocacy group Setara Institute recorded 201 violations of religious freedom in 2017. Although fewer than the 270 acts of violations in 2016, the number is still high.

“Dialogue between religious leaders is highly appreciated but it is not enough. Government, religious figures and organizations must take concrete action to stop persecution toward religious identity, especially minorities,” said Setara Institute chairman Hendardi.