POPE FRANCIS has led international condemnation and prayers after a suicide bombing at a cathedral in Indonesia left 20 worshippers injured, some severely.
The attack was on the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the city of Makassar, a southern port on the island of Sulawesi, as a Palm Sunday service finished.
Security guards managed to prevent the bombers, reportedly a newly married couple in their twenties, from entering the church. The pair then blew themselves up at a side entrance, killing only themselves, but injuring at least 20 others.
The Pope made mention of the victims during his regular Angelus prayer at the Vatican, after his own Palm Sunday mass.
The RC Bishops of Indonesia said that the bombing was not only an attack on Christians, but on the whole nation. “It degrades human dignity, destroys human values, and adds to the long list of acts of terrorism in our beloved archipelago.”
The President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, decrying the attack as an “act of terror”, said: “I call on everyone to fight against terror and radicalism, which go against religious values.”
Police officials have told the media that they believed that the Islamist terrorist group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which is affiliated to Islamic State, was responsible for the bombing. In 2018, the group inflicted a series of suicide bombings on churches and left dozens dead.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority state, but also has significant minorities of other faiths: about eight per cent of the population is Protestant, and a further three per cent is RC.
Ari Hartono, an Indonesian church leader who works on behalf of the persecuted Church for the charity Open Doors, said that the Makassar attacks were an attempt to whip up hostility between the country’s religious communities.
“We are approaching Easter this week, and Ramadan begins the following week,” he said. “Our church leaders have issued a joint statement with other faith leaders to the Indonesian people saying this has not come from our faiths, and we will not let it sow discord and chaos.”
The senior Asia analyst at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Benedict Rogers, said: “From these attacks, it is clear that the religious intolerance we witnessed in 2018 has yet to be fully addressed, and that the JAD remain a serious threat.”