Just over four months ago, on 13 November 2016, a two-year-old girl died after suffering 75% burns during a bomb attack on a church in Indonesia.
Three other young children were also injured – Anita (also two), Trinity (three) and Alvaro (four) – during the attack on Oikumene Church in Samarinda, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan province.
Anita and Trinity are now home, following hospital treatment, though Trinity continues to require regular check-ups.
Meanwhile, Alvaro – the worst injured – says he feels “ashamed” because of his injuries, according to his mother, and shies away from new people.
He has already undergone 17 different operations, including three to replace skin on the top of his head.
His mother says he has at least stopped crying after each operation.
“I always try to encourage him by saying it is important to regain his health and will pray with him before the operation,” says Novita, who is 40. “Seeing him happy is my source of strength and joy as well.”
Novita is a finance officer at the local police station and has to take work with her when she has to visit the hospital two to three times a week.
Meanwhile, Alvaro’s father, Hotdiman, is looking for a new job after quitting one that took him too far from home.
Twenty-one people were arrested after the attack, seven of whom had known links to the Islamic State group. One of them, 32-year-old Juhanda bin Muhammad Aceng, reportedly wore a black T-shirt with the message, “Jihad Way of Life”, as he threw a Molotov cocktail from his passing motorbike.
He was convicted of plotting a terrorist attack in 2011 and, according to the police, had been under supervision since his release on parole in 2014. No new information has been released about the status of his current trial, but two of the other attackers – both teenagers, aged 16 and 17 and identified as “GA” and “RP” – were handed two-year prison terms in January.
“This case has opened our eyes that [the counterterrorism agency] needs to improve its de-radicalisation programme,” legislator Eva Sundari said after the incident.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, stressed that the attack would be “investigated thoroughly”.
It was the second explosion at a church in Indonesia in 2016. In August, a would-be suicide bomber failed to detonate a bomb during Sunday Mass at a church in Medan in North Sumatra, but managed to injure a priest with an axe before being restrained.
Islamic extremists were behind a series of attacks that destroyed churches in the Aceh region of Sumatra in 2015. Because of alleged discrimination by local authorities, some of the churches have not yet been rebuilt.
In April 2010, Bogor’s Taman Yasmin Indonesia Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) was sealed and padlocked by order of the mayor of Bogor and the city government. In December 2010, the Indonesian Supreme Court affirmed the church’s right to freedom of worship; however the mayor refused to reopen the church. The Indonesian Ombudsman’s Office also urged the Bogor city administration to withdraw its later 2011 decree annulling the church’s construction permit.
Last month, the church was finally told it could reopen if it would also allow for a mosque to be built on its premises.
Meanwhile, inter-faith dialogue has been continuing in the central province of Java. In its capital, Semarang, an event of over 3,000 young people of different faiths pledged, as it ended, “to support the principle of ‘unity in diversity’ in the public life of the nation”.