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Indonesia

Elderly Dutch priest among four injured in sword attack

A radicalized Muslim went on a rampage during Mass in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta

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Elderly Dutch priest among four injured in sword attack

Police arrive at St. Lidwina Church in Yogyakarta to deal with a sword-wielding man who attacked Catholics during Mass on Feb.11. (Photo courtesy of St. Lidwina Church)

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A young Muslim man armed with a sword was shot by police after he attacked an 81-year-old Dutch priest and three others during Sunday Mass in Indonesia.

Suliyono, 22, entered St. Lidwina Church in Yogyakarta as Catholics were singing a hymn during Mass led by Jesuit Father Karl-Edmund Prier.

Yulianto, a Yogyakarta police spokesman, said Suliyono entered from the western church door and then began attacking with his sword. "The first victim was a church official who was hacked on his back," Yulianto told ucanews.com.

The policeman said Suliyono then moved to the altar where he attacked Father Prier.

"He hacked at the head and back of the priest," Yulianto said.

In the video that went viral on social media, the perpetrator was seen swinging a sword in front of the altar. Some people were seen throwing rocks or chairs towards him.

Suliyono also attacked and damaged statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

Yulianto said that Suliyono attempted to resist arrest and was shot by police in the thigh.

Father Prier and the other victims are in a stable condition.

A day after the attack, national police chief Tito Karnavian said there are strong indications that Suliyono, a university student, has links with radical groups.

Karnavian said Suliyono was believed to have had aspirations to fight in Syria as a jihadist but could not get a passport to allow him to travel.

Archbishop Robertus Rubyatmoko of Semarang said police were managing the case and that those injured "feel protected by God."

Juventus Prima Yoris Kago, chairman of the Catholic Student Association, asked Catholics not to be provoked by what occurred.

"Let us show the example of being a good religious person who is trying to love everyone," he said.

"We show that we reject destructive acts in any name." 

The incident has drawn concerns from many figures, including Muslims.

Helmy Faishal Zaini, the general secretary of Nahdatul Ulama, the country's largest moderate Muslim organization, said such acts of violence betray Islam.

"The act of assault and violence is not part of any religious teachings and beliefs," he told ucanews.com. 

"Islam condemns acts of violence, especially if it is done in houses of worship," he said.

Syafii Maarif, a prominent moderate Muslim leader who visited the church after the attack, said what occurred was "barbaric."

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said the incident highlights the ongoing need to address radicalism.

"The culprit is a young man. It shows us that radical understandings among young people are continuing and that they are being pushed by extremist groups," he said.

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