Indonesians bishops call for ‘internal’ security at churches

A soldier guards St Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Jakarta at Easter (ucanews/Konradus Epa)

Indonesian bishops have called on Catholics to beef up security during Masses this weekend following a warning by the national police chief of possible terrorist attacks on churches ahead of the presidential inauguration. Source: ucanews.org.

President Joko Widodo and Vice President Ma’ruf Amin will be sworn in on Sunday in Jakarta, but the ceremony is being delayed until the afternoon to allow Christians to attend Sunday morning Mass.

In recent weeks, police have arrested 36 members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which was implicated in previous church attacks and is affiliated to Islamic State. It is through this group that officers learned about further plots to attack public facilities, including churches.

The police have deployed about 30,000 personnel to secure vital venues in Jakarta.

Archbishop Vincentius Sensi Potokota of Ende, who heads the Indonesian bishops’ commission for the laity, said there had already been warning signs, including a recent attack on a minister and the arrest of suspected terrorists.

He urged worshippers to be vigilant. “We are all confident in the security provided by the authorities,” he said, “but we also need to internally protect our churches, for example by preventing or alerting the presence of suspicious people, maximising churches’ security units, coordinating with local security forces, updating emergency hotlines and activating CCTVs if any.”

Fr Paulus Christian Siswantoko, the commission’s executive secretary, said Catholic churchgoers need to independently secure their churches and monitor everyone who entered.

“This appeal should not frighten us but it serves as a reminder to be aware of the security threat,” he said.

The parish council of St Arnoldus Parish in Bekasi, West Java, which is in Jakarta Archdiocese, also appealed to Catholics to maintain security at their churches.

“We appeal to Catholics not to bring big bags into church, and all congregation should be checked with metal detectors,” the council said.

Densus 88, an Indonesian Special Forces counter-terrorism squad, has in recent weeks arrested alleged terrorists in Java and Sumatra after finding many bombs in their houses.

In Cirebon, West Java, police found bombs containing poisonous chemical substances. It was thought they had been stored in readiness for planned attacks on police officers and places of worship.

“High explosives mixed with poisonous chemicals can kill 100 people,” said a police spokesman.

FULL STORY

Indonesian bishops call for more security at churches (ucanews.org)

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