Finding the courage to forgive despite the tears

Christians touched by the hand of terror in Surabaya look to faith to see them through the pain and sense of loss
Finding the courage to forgive despite the tears

Wenny Angelina sprinkles scented water on the bodies of her two sons, Vincentius Evan Hudojo, 11 and Nathanael Ethan Hudojo, 8 after a requiem Mass at a funeral home in Surabaya, Indonesia on May 16. The two boys were killed in a suicide bombing at the Santa Maria Catholic church in Surabaya on May 13.(Photo by Ryan Dagur/

Assisted by her husband and family members, Wenny Angelina stood up and approached the bodies of her two sons to sprinkle some scented water on them after a requiem Mass in Surabaya, East Java.

Vincentius Evan Hudojo, 11 and Nathanael Ethan Hudojo, 8 were two of six people killed in the suicide bombing of the Santa Maria Catholic Church on May 13.

Angelina was also injured. Despite her injuries she was determined to attend the funeral rites for her sons on May 16, which she did dressed in bandages and still attached to an intravenous drip.

"She was only given four hours by doctors as she still has to undergo a lot of care," said Ratna Handayani, a relative.

Angelina and her sons had just stepped out of their car on Sunday, May 13, when two teenage boys suddenly rushed into the church compound and detonated bombs strapped around their waists.

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The bombers — Firman Halim, 15, and his 17-year-old brother, Yusuf — wanted to detonate their bombs inside the church. But Aloysius Bayu Rendra Wardhana, a member of the church, stopped them doing so and was killed instantly in the twin blasts.

Robertus Ditu, 23, another one of the injured, said he saw the brothers as they rushed through the church gate.

"Seconds later, there was an explosion. I dropped to the ground and fell unconscious," Ditu said, adding that when he regained consciousness, he was covered in the blood and remains of what was left of the bombers and other victims.

"Glass splinters were also sticking in my neck and hands," he said.

The Santa Maria church suffered the first attack, which was followed by more explosions at two Protestant churches carried out by members of the same family who were later found to have links with the Islamic State group.

The explosion at Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church only injured a security guard, but the bombers — the mother and her two daughters — were killed.

Wilianti, 41, a Muslim who has worked for seven years as a nurse at the church said she was in the treatment room when she heard a huge explosion.

"I came out and was shocked to find pieces of what were the bombers scattered around," she said.

"But someone screamed that it was a bomb and I should not come closer. Then I ran back into the building," she said.

The third attack by the father was on the Pentecostal Church of Surabaya and seriously damaged the church building, and killed six Christians, including the church administrator, Martha Djumani, who only got engaged to her boyfriend the day before.

According to Reverend Jonathan Bintoro the attack took place when worship was about to end.

"The explosion was so powerful that the fire and smoke covered the church. The congregation were panicked and rush out," he said.



The bombings were the first to target churches in the notoriously tolerant city of Surabaya, and has left those caught up in them deeply traumatized.

"Every time I go out of my room, I fear more bombings will occur," Ditu told

He said he will have to take a six-month break from the university he studies at and return to his hometown in East Nusa Tenggara province.

"I cannot do anything as usual. My mind is no longer focused on my studies," the 23-year-old student said.

Wilianti said she found the courage to go back to the church after the police had declared the site clear.

"But it is almost impossible to put out of my mind what I saw when it happened," she said.

Wardhana's wife — Monica Dewi Andini — has become very withdrawn since the death of her husband.

Their two young children are still wondering why their father has not returned home.

Father Alexius Kurdo Irianto, the parish priest at the Santa Maria church, said one of the church's key priorities is helping the survivors and families of the dead deal with the trauma.

"Awakening the spirit of parishioners is one of the priority efforts so that they can come to church as usual," he said.

Daniel Theopilus Hage of the Diponegoro Christian Church and Reverend Bintoro from Pentecostal Church of Surabaya said they have started the healing process with victims.

The government has also taken steps. On May 17, Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini formed a trauma center team, consisting of 100 psychologists. 

The Ministry of Social Affairs has also sent a team to help children affected by the bombings.


Martyr and forgiveness

In the midst of this trauma, the victims now claim to be able to see this event in the eyes of faith.

Rosalia Iswaty, Wardhana's aunt, said that this is indeed a painful experience, but believes that God has a plan behind all this.

"Jesus said there was no greater love than someone who gives his life. That's what Bayu has done, give up his life for the sake of the 500 people who were in church at the time," she said.

Wardhana's wife wrote on Facebook — a message to her two children — that the time will come for people to ask about their father.

"You will proudly reply, my father is in heaven with God the Father, because he became a martyr at the church," she wrote.

Wenny Angelina who lost her children, forgave the perpetrators.

According to Father Kurdo, she reflected on the life of Mother Mary, who also lost her son Jesus, and has accepted what has happened and forgiven the attackers.

"But forgiveness does not mean stopping the wheels of justice," the priest said. 

"Sin always has two aspects, action and punishment. We forgive their action, but the punishment remains to deter similar cases in the future," he said.

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