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Indonesian policeman 'sorry' for outburst against priest

Deputy city chief came under fire after being caught on video berating a Catholic priest at a roadblock

Togap M. Lumbantobing (left), deputy police chief in Tomok district, North Sumatra province, sits with Capuchine Father Sabat Saulus Nababan as he issues a public apology for berating the priest

Togap M. Lumbantobing (left), deputy police chief in Tomok district, North Sumatra province, sits with Capuchine Father Sabat Saulus Nababan as he issues a public apology for berating the priest. (Photo supplied)

Published: June 20, 2022 08:10 AM GMT

Updated: June 20, 2022 08:21 AM GMT

A senior police officer in Indonesia’s Christian-dominated North Sumatra province has issued a public apology to a priest he stopped and berated for trying to pass through a roadblock.

The incident in the town of Tomok on June 16 was captured on video and uploaded on social media, sparking outrage.  

In the footage, Togap M. Lumbantobing, deputy police chief in Tomok, was seen cursing Capuchine Father Sabat Saulus Nababan, a parish priest.

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The policeman appeared to lose his temper with Father Nababan for allegedly trying to pass through a roadblock on his motorbike in Tomok. Police had temporarily closed the road to traffic to allow high-ranking police officials to pass.

Lumbantobing became angry when the priest asked him to be allowed to pass so that he could attend to a dying parishioner.     

Taking his motorbike key, the policeman accused Father Nababan of being a fake priest after being shown the priest’s ID and robes.

"I have apologized to Father Nababan and he has forgiven and prayed for me. To the community, I repeat again that I have no problem with the father" 

He was also recorded saying “You are so arrogant” and “You don't know who I am? I'm the deputy chief of police."

Catholic Youth, a lay group, called for the policeman to be sacked after seeing the footage. "We cannot accept such behavior from a police officer," said Parulian Silalahi, head of the group’s North Sumatra chapter.

Similar calls came from parishioners and other Catholic netizens.

Responding to the backlash on June 19, Lumbantobing said he regretted the incident.

"I have apologized to Father Nababan and he has forgiven and prayed for me," he said in a video in which he was seen sitting next to the priest. "To the community, I repeat again that I have no problem with the father." 

Father Nababan said he wished to put the incident behind him but said the public’s forgiveness might be a bit harder to win.

"With the greatness of soul and a calm heart, I say I forgive him, but the people who witnessed the incident will judge for themselves," he said.

He also said he hoped the policeman has learned a lesson on the need for him “to be a good public servant."

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