On Sunday, May 13, a series of attacks on three Christian churches took place in the eastern Javanese port city of Surabaya (Indonesia). According to police, at least 13 people died in the suicide attacks, and at least 40 were injured. Among the churches affected were the Pentecostal church in Jalan Arjuna, the Protestant church Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI) in Jalan Diponegoround and the Catholic church of Santa Maria. The assassins detonated their explosive devices when numerous believers gathered for the morning services.
According to Indonesian media reports, two more bombs were discovered in two other churches before they exploded. The current situation in Surabaya and Indonesia is tense. The government called on all churches in the country to cancel their services and events for Sunday.
The Indonesian Moderator of the VEM and former leader of the largest Protestant church in Indonesia, Rev. Willem Simarmata, condemned the suicide attacks on the three churches in Surabaya with deaths and many serious injuries. He asked the relatives of the victims for patience and called on his Indonesian fellow citizens not to be afraid of the terrorists. However, increased vigilance is important. Christians in the country should continue to worship and work. "We pray for the police and military forces to know how to deal with this terrible situation. The perpetrators must be brought to justice and all terrorist activities must be brought to an end. He called on the Indonesian parliament to pass an anti-terrorism law so that the security authorities have firm rules to combat all kinds of terrorism. The state must be there to ensure security, justice and peace for all people in Indonesia," said the Indonesian theologian.
The police assume an Islamic background that could be connected to a revolt in a high-security prison on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta.
The General Secretary of the VEM, Rev. Volker Martin Dally, agreed with the Moderator's statement as follows: "We condemn this act of terror against Christians. But we will not react with hatred or thoughts of revenge, but with Paul's advice: If your enemy hungers, feed him, thirst him, give him drink. If you do this, you will collect fiery coals on his head. There is no alternative to dialogue that such assassinations are intended to prevent."
The leadership of the UEM member church in Java, Greja Kristen Jawi Wetan (GKJW), stated in her statement that terrorism is not the will of God or part of the state constitution. In addition, the church leadership asked its members for intercession prayers for the victims of the attacks and their families. The Javanese member church also called for greater stability and security in the country and a high degree of wisdom in living together with other religious communities.
The Council of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) urged people not to post photos and videos of the attacks in the social media, but instead to send out a signal of love and peace so that terrorism cannot achieve its goal and spread fear and terror within the communities. The Council also called on politicians and community leaders not to misuse the violence for their own political purposes.
Dr Martina Pauly