As there has been an increase in violence committed against parishes throughout Indonesia, Church officials in the country have urged Catholics to be vigilant, especially during Holy Week.
“We call on each parish and mission station to stay alert ahead of the observance of Holy Week and Easter. This is very important,” Fr. Felix Atmojo, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Palembang, March 13.
“We don’t want the church attack to reoccur,” he added, according to UCA News.
His warning came after a church in the Palembang archdiocese was damaged earlier this month; two more attacks on Christians had occurred the preceding month.
On March 8, six men broke into the Chapel of Saint Zacharias in South Sumatra’s Ogan Ilir district, where part of the church’s walls were damaged and statues were burned. The perpetrators have not been identified.
A few weeks earlier, on Feb. 27, two Indonesian Christians were publically flogged in Aceh province. Each man had been whipped a dozen times for reportedly violating Islamic law by playing a children’s game.
Additionally, a man armed with a sword attacked members of St Lidwina’s Church during Mass Feb. 11. The man injured two parishioners, a Dutch priest, and a policeman at the church in Sleman, Yogyakarta. The man was then shot by the police.
Following the attack at St. Lidwina’s, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Semarang, Fr. Franciscus Wignyosumarta, encouraged Catholics to stay alert and to increase security measures.
“Security in churches must be tightened and cooperation with police and security personnel must be improved,” he said, according to UCA News.
Fr. Atmojo encouraged Catholics to seek peace with people of other religions, saying, “we can learn from [the attacks], we need to continue to promote togetherness. Let it become our common goal.”
Archbishop Anicetus Sinaga of Medan also urged Catholics to avoid actions that would create enemies.
“Be inclusive, don’t create enemies,” he said.
According to UCA News, Archbishop Sinaga said a 12-member security force was created for the Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral in Medan after a nearby church was attacked by a teen in August 2016. The attacker had attacked a priest with an axe after a bomb in his backpack failed to detonate.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority nation in population. Alongside the 87 percent of its population who are Muslim, 10 percent of the population is Christian, and 2 percent are Hindu. Discrimination and attacks on religious minorities occur not infrequently.