Release International calls for open-service for Indonesian Christians
Release International is calling on Christians throughout the UK and Ireland to meet in the open air to stand in solidarity with the Christians of Indonesia who are recoiling in horror at the suicide bomb attacks launched on their churches.
A single family launched bomb attacks at three churches in Indonesia, killing at least 13 and injuring many more. The family included four children, one as young as nine. The use of children in bomb attacks is said to be unprecedented in the region.
‘How could a mother and father do this to their own children – recruit them into blowing themselves apart and taking the lives of others? Only the true love of God can withstand this doctrine of death that is being perpetrated in the name of God,’ says Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide.
‘We need to stand with Christians in Indonesia and pray that God will give them the courage to demonstrate His love even to those who want to kill them.’
Release is calling on Christians in the UK and Ireland to hold their services in the open air to stand in solidarity. The suggested date is May 27.
In Indonesia, it was a single family that targeted three churches. They split up to attack Santa Maria Catholic Church, Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church and Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church. They detonated their bombs within minutes of one another, killing and maiming scores.
According to a Release partner, one of the dead was a volunteer security guard who was killed on the spot after preventing the bombers’ motorbike from breaking through into the church car park. He had a wife and young child. Two children, aged nine and 13, were among the blast victims at Santa Maria Church. Nine-year-old Nathan died after having his injured legs amputated in hospital.
A witness said: ‘Two men in black suits on a motorbike were carrying a bomb inside a backpack. One of them tried to throw it inside the church, but it exploded.’ The security guard who saved the congregation has been named only as Bayu. He was a volunteer.
According to the Indonesian press, two other bombs planted at city churches in a coordinated attack failed to explode.
The father of the suicide family, Dita Oepriarto, was also head of the local branch of an Islamic-State inspired network, the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks, some of which were thwarted, and which continued with another family blowing themselves up at a police station. According to press reports, the suicide families knew one another.
These bomb attacks have been described as the deadliest in Indonesia in more than a decade. They reflect the growing violence against Christians and other minorities amid increasing Islamist radicalisation.
Militants have destroyed churches, accused Christians of blasphemy and issued death threats against pastors.
Although Indonesia is not an Islamic nation and freedom of religion is protected by the constitution, the picture on the ground is often very different. Islamic law (Sharia) is gaining momentum, and although it is supposed to apply only to Muslims, it has been forced upon Christians, too.
This latest wave of attacks comes on the eve of Ramadan. Christians in Indonesia are bracing themselves for further violence during the month of prayer and fasting.
Release is working with partners in the International Christian Association who are supporting persecuted Christians in Indonesia and South East Asia, where extremists are gaining ground.
‘It’s right to feel angry and horrified at what has happened in Indonesia,’ says Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release. ‘But anger must never turn into violence against people. It has to be turned to compassion, which is both practical and positive.
‘Release is calling on Christians in the UK and Ireland to do just that by standing with their persecuted brothers and sisters in Indonesia, whose churches have been closed or destroyed.
‘We are asking Christians to come out of their churches on May 27 and meet in the open air, just as some in Indonesia are now being forced to do. Let’s stand with them, pray for them, and take courage from them. It’s what Bayu, the volunteer security guard who gave his life, would have wanted.
‘In many parts of Indonesia church attendance is growing, as Christians refuse to be intimidated by the persecution. We, who are free, should take inspiration from them. We should use this opportunity to live our lives to the full for Jesus and rededicate ourselves to being a positive force for good in our communities and our country.’
Release International’s Great Outdoors Church Service is now in its seventh year. May 27 is the suggested date for open-air meetings to remember Christians who face violence and persecution for their faith.
‘Release has been supporting persecuted Christians for 50 years this year,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘Over that time, we have seen violence against Christians in Indonesia surge and fall back, only to surge again today. We need to pray for them, as though we were there with them.
‘Please ask God to comfort and heal the survivors and the mourners. Pray that Islamist militants will become weary of bloodshed and sickened by the death cult that they have joined. Ask God to give them a hunger for a new life and pray they will find that new life in Him. And pray that the Government will heed calls for greater security at churches, amid a worrying increase in militant activity in Indonesia in recent years.’
Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.
For more information, go to: www.releaseinternational.org