More than 90,000 police and soldiers and a Muslim youth group will guard almost 50,000 churches across Indonesia this Christmas. Source: ucanews.com.
The churches include some that have been previously attacked by terrorists.
A National Police spokesperson said that Christmas security will be focused on churches in 13 provinces, including on the main islands of Java and Sumatra as well as Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua.
The deployments would be to “anticipate” possible security threats, the spokesperson said.
Among the churches to be tightly secured is the Santa Maria Church in Surabaya, East Java, that was attacked by suicide bombers on May 13.
Also previously attacked were Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in the capital, Jakarta, as well as churches in Sumatra, Java and West Nusa Tenggara provinces.
Francis Xavier Ping Tedja, security coordinator at Santa Maria Church, said about 70 police, military and members of Banser – the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the biggest moderate Muslim organisation in Indonesia – will secure the church for Christmas.
“We have coordinated with police, military, and Islamic groups to maintain the security, so that Catholics can attend Christmas Masses comfortably and safely,” he told ucanews.com. In order to simplify police work, Catholics have been asked to not bring bags when they attend Christmas Masses.
“We hope Catholics will not be afraid to attend Christmas Masses at the church,” he said.
Fr Antonius Suyadi, chairman of the Jakarta Archdiocese’s Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Commission, said Christmas celebrations at the cathedral will be guarded by about 300 police and military personnel.
“Besides the cathedral church, police and military forces will also guard other Catholic churches in the archdiocese,” Fr Suyadi said.
Indonesia’s anti-terror squad arrested two terrorist suspects in Yogyakarta in December 11. The suspects allegedly planned attacks during Christmas and New Year celebrations. Police did not elaborate their targeted facilities or locations.
Christmas guards for Indonesian churches (ucanews.com)