CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 December 2018

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Surabaya churches pick up the pieces as security upped for Ramadan

SURABAYA (UCAN): Rebuilding work has begun on two of the three churches attacked by suicide bombers in Surabaya, Indonesia, on May 13, and efforts to help those who survived the atrocities to deal with the trauma have been stepped up.
 
The third church was still cordoned off on May 16 as police forensic teams were still examining the scene.
 
Repair work on the Catholic Santa Maria Church—the first to be attacked—began the day after bombings with the focus on repairing the minaret, the main door, wall and windows at the front of the building.
 
“We expect the work to be completed sometime this week,” parish priest, Father Alexius Kurdo Irianto, said.
 
In addition to physical recovery, the church is also focused on helping victims recover from emotional trauma. 
 
Father Kurdo and the parish council have visited all those still hospitalised as well as their families.
 
“I’m so impressed that in spite of all this they accept what has happened and want to forgive the terrorists,” he said.
 
The priest said the church has agreed to help the victims, including financially supporting children whose parents died, including those of Aloysius Bayu Rendra Wardhana who was killed trying to prevent the bombers from entering the church.
 
At Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church, repairs began on May 15, soon after the police finished its investigation at the blast site. 
 
Josua Poli, a parish council member said that the building suffered minor damage, with the blast only injuring several church security officers. He said that the parish was also carrying out a trauma-healing programme.
 
Meanwhile, reconstruction work on the Surabaya Pentecostal Church, which suffered the most damage, may not start anytime soon. Police were still at the scene in May 16 gathering evidence as to what type of bomb was used.
 
Soehendro, a church worker who was inside at the time of the blast, said it needs major repairs as the interior was seriously damaged.
 
“The blast was huge and caused the ceiling to collapse. People just ran in panic,” he said.
 
A woman, who requested anonmimity and who was inside when the explosion occurred, said the blast left her so terrified she refused to return to the church for several days.
 
“I just dared to come again today, after being asked several times by my husband,” she said on May 16.
 
The attacks, which were carried out by members of a single family— including young children—with links to the Islamic State group, killed 12 people and left scores injured.
 
Another attack the following day by another family on the city police headquarters left at least four dead and 10 injured.
 
Since then the death toll from the Surabaya attacks has risen to 25. 
 
Anti-terror police have since discovered 54 pipe bombs in the home of the family that attacked the police headquarters.
 
On May 16, terrorists attacked police headquarters in Sumatra’s Riau province resulting in the death of a policeman and four terrorists linked to the Islamic State group, according to police.
 
Meanwhile, mosques have been prompted to up their security measures during the observance of the holy month of Ramadan, which began on May 17.
 
On May 16, the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, the country’s biggest mosque, installed metal detectors at its entrance when the president, Joko Widodo, along with thousands of Muslims performed the first tarawih—evening Ramadan prayers. More than 1,000 police stood guard.
 
Helmi Muhammad Nur, spokesman for the Al Akbar Great Mosque in Surabaya, said security measures were introduced because they are “worried about a decline in the number of Muslims coming to the mosque for the tarawih.”  
 
He said, “We have faith in the police. Yet, we need to do something on our own. We’ve placed 16 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras inside our mosque and another seven outside.” 
 
Nur added, “We have also deployed 20 security guards and 17 parking attendants during the busy period between 4.00pm and 10.00pm when Muslims come to our mosque to pray during Ramadan.”
 
These efforts “aim to make sure Muslims can observe Ramadan safely,” he added.  
 
Similarly, Ahmad Toha, chairperson of the Jami’ Istiqomah Mosque Foundation in Ungaran, Central Java province, said security at the town’s second-largest mosque was also tightened.
 
“The current situation in Indonesia has driven us to use all CCTVs. There are six at our mosque. It does not mean that we suspect Muslims coming to our mosque to pray, we just need to stay vigilant,” he told explained.
 
Security measures are also being introduced in other parts of the country. In Sukabumi, in West Java, local police have formed a Ramadan unit with 400 policemen assigned to guard mosques and public facilities during the holy month.
 
Jelang Ramadan, a 26-year-old from Jakarta, welcomed the heightened security measures. 
 
“It helps make the situation conducive. On the other hand, people might think that a mosque is not safe anymore. A place of worship should be safe and not need guarding,” he said.
 
Referring to the recent terror attacks, he said Ramadan “is a time for Muslims to reflect on why our Muslim brothers and sisters can be contaminated by teachings which are against Islam.”

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