The statue of Mary was found in a river located close to the parish church. (Photo supplied)
Four statues from two parish churches in Java were vandalized and removed, incidents local Catholics say they find difficult to understand.
"Our relations with local people from different religious backgrounds have been good. Our parish church is open to anyone who wants to pray here. In fact, we don’t hire security personnel to guard our parish church on a daily basis," said Endang Setyorini.
Setyorini, a staff of the secretariat at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Gondangwinangun, Klaten district, Central Java province, said an assistant of the parish noticed a broken statue of Jesus lying on the floor of the church and a Marian statue missing on Aug. 9. The Marian statue was later found broken in a river nearby.
"We cannot say who did this because we don’t want to speculate," Setyorini said.
"The case is now investigated by local police," she said.
Father Ignatius Sukawalyana, the parish priest, called on parishioners who feared the vandalism might be the work of Muslim extremists, not to jump to conclusions "while the investigation is ongoing."
On the same day, two statues of the Way of the Cross from the Sendang Sriningsih Shrine in Gayamharjo village of Yogyakarta province were also destroyed.
This incident prompted local Catholic volunteers to mount a guard on the shrine.
Franciscan Father Peter C. Aman, a professor of moral theology at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy, the acts of vandalism were more likely committed by people with a criminal mentality rather than motivated by religious hatred.
He also said Catholics should not "overreact" as "we don’t worship statues and we forgive others," he said.
Prior to the recent incidents, several attacks on Catholic properties in the predominantly Muslim country have taken place.
On June 6, the complex of a Marian shrine in Bangunjiwo village of Yogyakarta province was vandalized.
In 2011, a Marian statue at a shrine in Central Java province was decapitated.
In 2010, a homemade bomb was found in the complex of a Catholic shrine in Yogyakarta province.