In the wake of terror attacks, the future for Catholics is anything but certain

Almost three months after suicide bombers attacked three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, I stood at the very spot where the first bomb exploded. At 7.15am on Sunday, May 13, two teenage boys drove at high speed through a red light and into the gate of Santa Maria Tak Bercela Catholic church, as parishioners were leaving the first Mass and others were arriving for the second Mass. Six people were killed and more than 30 injured.

Minutes later a woman and her two daughters, aged six and eight, wearing niqabs and veils, arrived at the GKI Protestant church. The security guard on the gate was suspicious. He stopped them – and a bomb exploded. According to one account, “there were many bombs strapped to her body, and to her daughters’, including a big bomb on her leg”.

At 7.53am a third church, a Pentecostal congregation, was hit as a man drove a Toyota through the gates, ploughing through people and into the church building, detonating a bomb. Eight people in total died.

The terrible connecting factor between these three attacks was that the bombers were all from one family. The parents strapped explosives on to their children, including their young daughters, who only the previous day had been seen playing with friends in the street.

At the Catholic church, the priest showed me an upstairs room which he said was strewn with blood and body parts flung by the force of the blast. “That day was very terrible for us, because Surabaya was a safe city, with many moderate Muslims,” Fr Aloysius Widyawan told me.

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