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Religious leaders in Indonesia concerned about radicalism

Poverty, unemployment and a narrow understanding of religious teachings often lead youth astray

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Religious leaders in Indonesia concerned about radicalism

Indonesian policemen examine the church after a man tried to attack a priest in Medan on Aug. 28. (Photo by AFP)

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Religious leaders in Indonesia have expressed concern about radicalism spreading among youth in the predominantly Muslim country after a would be suicide bomber attacked a priest during Sunday Mass.

Father Albertus S. Pandiangan, 60, was delivering a sermon when he was attacked Aug. 28 in St. Joseph Church in Medan.

Churchgoers restrained the attacker — identified as 18-year-old Ivan Armadi Hasugian — before he could inflict any serious injury and detonate a bomb in his backpack.

Police said that they found a piece of paper among his belongings which had the symbol of the so-called Islamic State drawn upon it.

"We are concern about radical movements which have spread among the youth," Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, secretary of the Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace's national council, told ucanews.com on Aug. 29.

"We are concerned about it because youths don't have something to hold on to and can easily be led astray," he said. "So when youths do something, they don't feel guilty. This is because they think it's right," he said.

The Rev. Melianus Ferry Haurissa Kakiay, chairman of the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum, also said that radical movements began to target youths "because they can be easily influenced."  

The Rev. Gomar Gultom, general secretary of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, mentioned two main reasons why radical movements spread among the youth. 

"Poverty resulting in unemployment makes hope for the future disappear. Also, a narrow understanding of religious teachings makes it easy for youths to be recruited as militants," he said.

However, he suggested that the attack on the church should not be seen as an attack committed by a group of a certain religion against Christians.

It's a group attacking the multi-faceted Indonesia with different cultures and religions. "This is a national issue. All people, including Christians, must work together in countering with radical movements," he said.

Ahmad Nurcholish, a prominent intellectual from the Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organization in the country, said the attack on the church showed that "violence is still an option for certain people."

"This is an indication that the values of love, humanity and tolerance — which are the noble spirit of all religions — is really gone," he said.

"There must be something wrong with the learning process of religious doctrines because all religions teach good values," he said.

Meanwhile, national police spokesperson Agus Rianto told reporters that the police are still investigating another person whom the attacker is said to have ordered him to attack the church.

"We're still hunting this person. We're not sure if he really exists," Rianto said, as quoted by kompas.com.

According to Rianto, the person approached the attacker a few days before the attack, promising him 10 million rupiah (about US$800) to attack the church.

The attacker has been charged with an act of terrorism.

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