Jakarta :The spate of attacks on religious leaders is believed to be an attempt by perpetrators to incite interfaith hatred and create instability in the run-up to the simultaneous regional head elections this year.
In recent weeks, religious leaders have been the target of several attacks, such as the assault of a Muslim cleric in Cicalengka followed by another incident of violence against the activists of Islamic Unity in Bandung, West Java, and a case of violence against a Buddhist monk in Tangerang, Banten.
The latest attack was reported on Sunday (Feb 11) on the Santa Lidwina church in Bedog, Sleman District, Yogyakarta, following which three people were rushed to the hospital.
Advisory Council Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council Din Syamsuddin expressed concern over the incidents, saying the violence against religious leaders could be premeditated acts as part of a plan to create instability.
"The events seem to be controlled by a systemic scenario aimed at spreading fear and conflict between religious adherents and ultimately creating national instability," Syamsuddin noted in Jakarta on Sunday (Feb 11).
Syamsuddin opined that the attacks on people and places of worship, such as that in Yogyakarta, on Sunday, were acts of intolerance and barbarism.
"We strongly condemn the action, as it is a form of barbarism that cannot be tolerated," Syamsuddin told reporters in Jakarta on Sunday.
Hence, Syamsuddin has called on security apparatuses to conduct serious and thorough investigation and uncover the perpetrators and their motive in the cases. If these events are not immediately investigated and prevented, they could create a sense of prejudice in the community and trigger reactions that would eventually lead to chaos.
"To this end, religious people are urged to remain calm, exercise self-restraint, and to not let themselves be provoked by parties that deliberately want to incite and pit religious adherents against each other," he noted.
According to Indonesias largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), regardless of the reasons, acts of violence against religious figures should be stopped.
"A spate of violent incidents that have taken place indicates there is religious hatred that must be stopped, condemned, and shunned," Robikin Emhas, chairman of the NU Executive Board, noted on Sunday.
Violent attacks on religious figures have the potential to disrupt unity and, in turn, security.
Chief of the NU martial art group Pagar Nusa M. Nabil Haroen remarked that violence against religious figures must be stopped.
"Before, it was an Islamic cleric and now it is a Catholic priest. It is a kind of a series of violent incidents. This must be stopped. Not only should the perpetrator be caught, but such incidents must also be halted. Efforts must be made to prevent irresponsible groups from disrupting the situation in Indonesia," he emphasized.
"We also continued to communicate intensively with the commander of TNI (military) and the Indonesia Police chief to jointly create a conducive situation," he revealed.
Haroen has called to intensify coordination among community elements, as Indonesia faces its election years of 2018 and 2019.
"Do not allow the political situation ahead of the regional and general elections to escalate that may be misused by irresponsible groups," Haroen noted.
Indonesia will hold simultaneous regional head elections in 171 regions, comprising 17 provinces, 39 municipalities, and 115 districts across the country on June 27, 2018. Presidential elections will be held in 2019.
House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo appealed to the people to maintain interfaith harmony and not be provoked by the attack on the church in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on Sunday.
"We urge and hope that people of the religious community will not be incited by this incident. We need to keep prioritizing efforts to maintain what we have done and achieved and uphold harmony among religious followers, which today has been very good," Soesatyo noted after visiting the church along with Commander of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto in Sleman on Sunday.
The House of Representatives has encouraged and supported the decisive steps taken by the Police, assisted by the TNI, to investigate the case thoroughly. Soesatyo has also urged the chief of the National Polices Criminal Investigation Department to immediately investigate the case and apply preventive measures, so that such an incident will not recur.
In the meantime, the Yogyakarta governor deplored the attack on the church in Sleman while people were still attending mass on Sunday morning.
"I am very sad and regretful over why it could happen. It must never happen again," Governor Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X stated.
The governor noted that joint efforts were necessary to fully realize inter-religious tolerance. All parties should guard each other, he added.
"I especially extend my apologies over the incident to the Catholic people and victims. Despite coordination with security authorities, it still occurred," he stated.
The governor, who is also chief of the Javanese traditional Sultanate of Yogyakarta, noted that the incident did not reflect the true character of the indigenous Yogyakartans, as the culture of cooperation and solidarity continued to be nurtured in the region.
"I do not understand and cannot comprehend why one can do such a cruel and inhuman act. Obviously, it is not the character of Yogyakartans," he noted after visiting three wounded victims of the incident treated at the Panti Rapih hospital in the evening.
Three people are undergoing treatment at the Panti Rapih hospital following the attack on the Santa Lidwina church in Bedog, Sleman District, on Sunday.
According to Semarang Archbishop Mgr. Robertus Rubyatmoko, three victims were treated in different wards for their injuries. The three victims comprised Rev. Prier, who led the mass when the attack occurred, and two congregational members identified as Budijono and Yohanes Tri.
"Thank God, the condition of all victims is encouraging, although treatment is needed," Archbishop Rubyatmoko remarked after visiting the patients.
"Initially, four victims were being treated at the hospital, but one of them has been discharged, as he only needed small stitches for his wound," he revealed.
Father Prier suffered a sword wound on the back of his head while Budijono on the back of his neck and Yohanes Tri on his forehead. The medical team has conducted surgery on the three.
Source: ANTARA News