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Mass and Muslim solidarity after church attack

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Yogyakarta (AsiaNews) – A Mass was celebrated at St Lidwina Church to “restore the faith and strengthen the morale of local Catholic,” said Fr John ‘Santo’ Dwiharsanto, parish priest of Kumetiran.

The latter includes St Lidwina Parish, the recent scene of an Islamist attack in which an elderly German priest, Fr Karl-Edmund Prier, and three other people were wounded.

The attacker, a 23-year-old extremist called Suliyono, was also wounded and is now in prison. Catholics forgave him and expressed their gratitude for the solidarity hown by moderate Muslims towards them.

Fr Prier, an 81-year-old Jesuit, sustained major wounds to his back, head and hands. Nevertheless, he was among the more than 2,100 faithful who took part last night in the service celebrated by Mgr Robertus Rubiyatmoko, archbishop of Semarang, along with dozens of priests.

During the liturgy, the prelate blessed some places in the church. At the end, he told the media that the Semarang Catholic community does not resent Suliyono. “We forgave him right away,” the archbishop said. “I have encouraged the faithful not to have bad feelings towards him. We must pray for him and his quick recovery.”

Earlier Fr Prier had also forgiven the attacker. For any inquiry related to the incident, the archdiocese also called on the faithful to contact the Justice and Peace Commission.

Fr FX Endra Wiyanto, a diocesan priest in Yogyakarta, said that the solidarity shown to Catholics by civil society groups, above all by moderate Muslims, “transformed” the traumatic experience into a new moment of mutual respect, showing a renewed sense of unity, great esteem and love among Yogyakarta’s different communities.

Yesterday morning, Mgr Rubyatmoko visited the house of Syafii ‘Buya’ Maarif (picture 1 and video), to express gratitude to him. In the hours following the attack, Maarif, a leader of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second moderate Islamic organisation, visited the scene of the attack.

“Buya’s visit helped us calm down,” Mgr Rubyatmoko said. “What emerged after the incident was a strong sense of brotherhood.”

Syafii said he was happy to welcome the prelate. “I am just a small ‘screw’ that is striving to promote logic and healthy thinking in this country,” he noted.

Three days ago, Fr Prier also paid a courtesy call to the Muhammadiyah leader, whose house is only a few hundred metres from St Lidwina.

A few days after the attack, dozens of moderate Muslims went to the church to clean up the mess.

On 14 February, many members of Gus Durians, a youth movement affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation, visited the church to show their closeness to Catholics (picture 2).

“We came here to visit the church and show our compassion for the victims. Such violence has tarnished the social bond of society. We are all fellow Indonesians,” said Kiai Hajj Umar Masdar, mentor at the Yogyakarta chapter of Gus Durians.

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