Evangelical leaders were among those quick to condemn a suicide bombing outside the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in the Indonesian city of Makassar on Palm Sunday.
The Fellowship of Indonesian Evangelical Churches and Institutions (FIECI) requested prayer for victims and more respect for religious freedom, according to multiple published reports. FEICI also called on Indonesian believers to respond calmly, “handing over the investigation to government officials while reflecting on the love, sacrifice and redemptive work of Jesus Christ” during Holy Week.
Gina Goh, International Christian Concern’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, said, “As Christians around the world prepare themselves for the Holy Week, it is pure evil that the terrorists deliberately chose this time to attack and inflict suffering on Christians. We ask for prayers for the wounded and urge the Indonesian authorities to investigate and arrest the terrorists responsible for this attack. Terrorism should not be allowed to exist in a country that upholds Pancasila.”
At least 20 people were injured by the blast, including four security guards and several churchgoers. Police later said both attackers were killed instantly and evidence collected at the scene indicated one of the two was a woman.
The Reverend Wilhelmus Tulak, a priest at Sacred Heart, said the church’s security guards were initially suspicious of a couple on a motorcycle who wanted to enter the building near the end of the Palm Sunday mass. When guards approached the couple, the man detonated his explosive.
“We were finishing the service and people were going home when it happened,” Tulak told reporters.
National Police Chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo has said that the two attackers are believed to have been members of the militant group Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and was responsible for a string of suicide bombings on Indonesian churches in 2018.
President Joko Widodo condemned Sunday’s attack in a televised address and encouraged Indonesian worshipers of all religions to remain calm because “the state guarantees you can worship without fear.”
He also said the government would cover all costs of medical treatment for the victims and assured the public that the national police will be cracking down on any and all militant networks involved in the attack.
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world and is ranked No. 47 out of the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian on Open Doors’ World Watch List.
“As Christians celebrate Holy Week, our hearts are with the victims of the bombing of Catholic worshippers in Makassar, Indonesia, on Palm Sunday,” the U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom posted on Twitter. “Such attacks on places of worship are an affront to the values of mutual respect and pluralism that we hold dear.”
Above: A police officer guards the crime scene in front of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Photo: Pacific Press Media Production Corp./Alamy Live News