Indonesia (MNN) — A church in Java, Indonesia was attacked by an Islamic extremist swordsman on February 11, during the worship service.
South China Morning Post reported that minutes after the service started, a church member ran into the building with a head injury and was being chased by a man with a sword. The rest of the congregation tried to escape, but the man wounded two church members as well as the 81-year-old German priest Edmund Pier.
The attacker destroyed books and decapitated statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
The police were called and responded quickly. They fired a warning shot, but the attacker didn’t stop. One police officer was slashed on the hand while trying to detain him. The swordsman was then shot in the abdomen and finally detained.
The four wounded and the attacker have all been taken to the hospital to recover.
Since the assault, the man has “been charged under three different laws, relating to persecution, as well as a weapons charge, and then also charged under a terrorism charge,” Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) says. “The terrorism charge could carry under the death penalty. We’ll see what happens in the trial process, but thankfully, no one was killed.”
The swordsman has been identified as an Islamic extremist and according to Express.com, has shown signs of radicalism before.
“This is a young man who apparently tried to go to Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State, but for whatever reason, wasn’t able to get to Syria, so apparently decided he would exercise his fight right there in Indonesia,” Nettleton says.
President Joko Widodo has responded to the attack, stating that Indonesia is a religiously free country and that he will uphold that in the fight against extremism.
“Our constitution guarantees religious freedom,” President Widodo said. “Therefore, we will not give even the slightest amount of room to those who promote and spread intolerance in our country. Especially those who act with violence. I have ordered the authorities to take firm actions. The state will consequently uphold the constitution.”
Persecution in the Past
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country. On Open Doors World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution, Indonesia places #38. This attack is obviously not the first case of oppression taken against believers there.
Nettleton says attacks like this aren’t normal in the country, but “it’s not completely out of the normal either. We have seen churches attacked. We’ve seen churches burned. We’ve seen churches closed down by government decree, or by government pressure.”
However, in this attack, Nettleton says it is a positive sign that the police showed up and responded well.
And while the obvious response in this situation is to act fearfully, which Nettleton hopes does not happen.
“But obviously, if you’re a Christian in Indonesia, you look at this and think, well I wonder who’s going to come to our church on Sunday… That’s a very real sense of foreboding that comes when you hear about attacks like this.”
Respond with VOM
Nettleton says the best thing believers around the world can do is pray for those who are persecuted in Indonesia. Pray for those who were in the church where the swordsman attacked to have physical and mental healing. Pray for hope and courage as they move forward, and ask the Lord to empower them to speak out and feel God’s goodness.
But also, pray for the attacker. Pray for his recovery from the gunshot wound and “pray that he will experience the love of Christ, that he will repent of his sin and come face to face with Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
You can also alongside Indonesian Christians through a tangible gift with VOM, whether that’s giving Bibles, or a sustainable gift to families of martyrs. Your support will encourage believers to be strong in their faith.