As many as 90,000 soldiers will be guarding more than 50,000 churches across Indonesia in an effort to thwart terror attacks during Christmas.
Francis Xavier Ping Tedja, security coordinator at Santa Maria Church, told UCA News earlier this week that 70 police officers and members of Banser — the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest moderate Muslim group in the country, will guard the church for Christmas services.
“We have coordinated with police, military, and Islamic groups to maintain the security, so that Catholics can attend Christmas masses comfortably and safely,” Tedja said.
“We hope Catholics will not be afraid to attend Christmas masses at the church,” he added.
The church in Surabaya, East Java, was attacked by suicide bombers in May. The terrorists, linked with the Islamic State terror group, targeted three churches in the world’s most populous Islamic nation, killing 18 people.
Father Antonius Suyadi, chairman of the Jakarta Archdiocese’s Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Commission, added that the Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Jakarta will be secured by 300 police and military personnel.
“Besides the cathedral church, police and military forces will also guard other Catholic churches in the archdiocese,” Suyadi explained.
As police combat terrorist threats, the nation’s leaders continue to work on reconciliation efforts that include terror attack survivors meeting face-to-face with people who’ve carried out bombings.
A three-day first-of-its-kind event was staged in March in Jakarta, where 124 convicted terrorists met 51 survivors of attacks and their family members.
One former Islamic radical who killed three people in 2002 spoke of his regret for what he did.
“I have repented and I will help the government educate others not to follow a radical path as I did,” Mokhtar Daeng Lau said at the time.
Another man by the name of Sumarno, who took part in 2002 Bali bombings where Islamic radicals killed over 200 people, added: “I deeply regret what I have done. I did not expect that so many victims were our brothers and sisters.”
“It’s hard and saddens me to see survivors who are now suffering from permanent disabilities,” the man added.
“I had not imagined the impact would be like that. I am sorry and have apologized to them.”
IS, which in the past couple of years has lost significant territory in Iraq and Syria, has been escalating attacks into other nations with large Islamic majorities, such as Egypt and Indonesia.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that U.S. troops will leave Syria, declaring that the terror group has been defeated.
Johannes de Jong, a Netherlands-based director of Sallux, an association that serves as the political foundation for the European Christian Political Movement, told The Christian Post that IS is not yet defeated, however.
“[The U.S. withdraw] means basically that you sacrifice the Christian community of northeast Syria for the Jihadists. If that happens, it is the end of the ten thousands of Christians in Northeast Syria,” he warned.
Similarly, one of the nation’s leading Christian conservative advocacy groups that has been supportive of the Trump administration has also warned that Trump’s plans for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria will put Christian communities in “mortal danger.”
In an op-ed co-written by Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, the organization’s executive vice president, and Travis Weber, a former Navy pilot and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who serves as FRC’s vice president for policy, argue that withdrawing troops won’t result in Trump’s stated campaign promise to defeat the Islamic State.