A half hour after Pastor Yonathan preached about the martyrdom of Stephen from the book of Acts, and the congregation had sung the last song and was beginning to leave, a loud explosion outside rocked the building propelling nails, nuts and bolts into the sanctuary.
According to a Compass Direct News source, the explosion took place at Bethel Full Gospel Church (GBIS, or Gereja Bethel Injil Sepenuh) in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia last Sunday. “The bomber went into the church just as everyone was singing the last song,” the source said. “As soon as the service was over and people started to leave, he blew himself up by the glass doors leading out of the sanctuary. The 100 church members at that service began screaming and running out of the church.
At least twenty people were injured in the attack, including an 18-year-old girl named Deviana and her father. Shrapnel was found lodged in the girl’s skull and in her father’s back. Both were hospitalized in an Intensive Care Unit because of their serious wounds. Tuesday’s update reported that most of the injured are doing well now except for Deviana who is still in the ICU ward with nails and other objects implanted in her head.” She has had surgery and is responding well, the Compass source said.
An Open Doors worker was able to visit the victims in the hospital and pray with them. One of the injured victims, 17-year-old Hari Daniel Restono, told Open Doors that he forgives the bomber, because he did not know what he was doing. Regretfully, he said, the bomber thought this was the right way to practice his religion.
The only fatality in the attack was the suicide bomber himself, who was found dead near the church door where he detonated the eight pipe bombs. Local police examined security camera footage from the church and have since determined that the bomber was Ahmad Yosepa Hayat who was suspected in connection with a previous suicide bombing in Cirebon.
“The church never expected anything like this to happen; this [suicide bombing] is indeed the first in church history in Indonesia,” a local source who requested anonymity told Compass. “The church members are not afraid, and they believe God was there to protect them,” explained a local source to Compass. “In fact, on the day of the bombing, the guest preacher spoke about the ever-present help of God and quoted from the story of Stephen the martyr. Church members say the fact that nobody died, other than the bomber, is proof of God’s care for them.”
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promptly condemned the church attack, stating that initial investigations indicated a probable link with a network in Cirebon, where another suicide bomber had attacked a police mosque in April, killing only himself but wounding 30 police officers and local authorities. Five men connected with the April bombing managed to escape arrest, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam told Antara, a local news source. The men were in possession of 15 pipe bombs. Hayat, who was one of the five, detonated eight of those bombs in Sunday’s attack, leaving seven bombs unaccounted for. On Monday morning police found a similar bomb outside the Maranatha Church in Ambon city, on the island of Ambon.
Solo, with a population of one-half million, is known as the home Abu Bakar Baashir, a militant Islamist leader considered responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people. The Muslim cleric was sentenced in June to 15 years in jail, convicted of funding the terrorist group responsible for the Bali bombing.
An officially secular nation, Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country. Major attacks over the past decade have focused on the police, government officials and political figures, as well as Christians and moderate Muslims. In contrast to the previous generation of “jihadists,” who attacked Westerners as their main targets, the new generation of Islamist activists appears to have shifted to more independent operations carried out by individuals who plan, finance and carry out their attacks in swift, flexible and more unpredictable ways.
Indonesia is ranked No. 48 on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.
Father, we implore You as we think of our brothers and sisters in Indonesia where there are increased attacks on churches. Surround the members of Gereja Bethel Injil Sepenuh in Solo with Your comfort. We pray especially for Deviana that You would bring healing to her body as she recovers from surgery. But the greatest injury is the fear of further attack and so we pray Your courage over them and Your protection. We call on You to diffuse the power of these extremists to carry out their plans. And we call on You to take the evil intended and work it for good to cause Your church in Indonesia to flourish and lift up the name of Christ. Amen