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Indonesian Christians on alert after terrorist deaths

Christians vow to celebrate Holy Week despite recent killing, arrest of extremists in East Java

Indonesian Christians on alert after terrorist deaths

A member of the Indonesian K-9 police squad searches a church in Malang, East Java province. Security is being stepped up as Christian mark Holy Week in Indonesia. (Photo by Aman Rochman/AFP)

Konradus Epa, Jakarta
Indonesia

April 11, 2017

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The recent killing of six suspected terrorists in East Java's Tuban regency has sparked security fears among Christians preparing for Holy Week events but will not deter people from celebrating Easter, leading Christian figures said.

Police shot dead the six suspected terrorists in a rice plantation on April 8 after earlier coming under fire. An anti-terror unit later arrested three other suspects in Lamongan, East Java.

All were suspected of being members of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, an umbrella organization of Indonesian extremists that have pledged support for the Islamic State group

Yohanes Kanto, a lay official in Surabaya Diocese in East Java said the incident was disturbing but would not deter Catholics from attending Masses during Holy Week.

"They aren't afraid and many attended Palm Sunday Masses the day after the incidents," he told ucanews.com.

Security has been stepped up as it usually is at this time with police monitoring everyone going into churches, he said.

Communion of Churches in Indonesia spokesman Reverend Jerry Sumampouw said Christians were being asked to be extra vigilant over Holy Week.

"We are putting on a brave face and, but our guard is up," he said.

Christians are being told not to bring bags to church and cooperate with police.

Maria Wijaya, 53, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Jakarta, vowed to continue attending Masses during Holy Week.

"I believe Jesus Christ will protect us," she said.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, is on heightened alert over potential terror threats following a surge in extremism inspired by the rise of the so-called Islamic State in the Middle East.

Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, said there was correlation between developments in Syria and Iraq and activity in Indonesia. Islamic State has been urging supporters who cannot reach Syria to fight in their country.

According to the University of Indonesia's Study Center on Terrorism and Social Conflict in University of Indonesia there were more than 260 terrorism incidents in Indonesia and more than 1,000 terrorists had been arrested between 2000 and 2015.

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