Attacks continue: Former vice president Jusuf Kalla (left) observes the damage in the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) on Jl. Samiun, Makassar, South Sulawesi, which was attacked on Thursday. CCTV footage shows two of four assailants riding two motorcycles hurling petrol bombs at the church at dawn. It is the fifth church to have been attacked in Makassar in a week. (Antara/Yusran Uccang)
Three churches in Makassar, South Sulawesi, became on Thursday the latest targets of violent attacks, which were committed by unidentified persons who threw Molotov cocktails at them.
The churches in question were the Makassar Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) on Jl. Samiun; Panakkukang Toraja Klasis Church on Jl. Andi Pangerang Pettarani; and Toraja Klasis Tallo Church on Jl. Gatot Subroto.
The first attack, on Toraja Klasis Tallo Church, took place on Thursday morning at around 3 a.m. local time (2 a.m. Jakarta time). Its front entrance was damaged by fire.
An hour later at 4 a.m., Panakkukang Toraja Klasis Church was attacked. The gasoline concoction hit a wall that became blackened by fire but was relatively undamaged.
At the same time, the GKI building was also attacked. The damage to the church was quite severe, as one of its windows was smashed and its floor tiles damaged and blackened. Shattered glass from the bottles used to make the Molotov cocktails was found scattered on the floor.
GKI priest John Parengkuan said that when the incident occurred, two security guards were on duty at a security post. Both of them heard a loud blast. “They immediately rushed outside, but a fire was already blazing inside the church,” he said.
Four men are believed to have been involved in the attack. They were traveling on two motorcycles and pulled up in front of the church. Two of the men got off the bikes and tossed the Molotov cocktails at the church.
“Their actions were recorded by closed-circuit television [CCTV] installed in front of the church. Hopefully, the tape will reveal their identities,” said Parengkuan.
No one witnessed the attacks on the Toraja Klasis Tallo and Panakkukang Toraja Klasis churches. Local residents only became aware of the attacks after hearing explosions.
On Sunday, the Tiatira Church in Malengkeri and Toraja Mamasa Church (GTM) on Jl. Dirgantara, Makassar had also been targeted in the same way by unidentified persons using Molotov cocktails. Similar homemade bombs were also used on the same day to attack two ATMs owned by Bank Mandiri.
South Sulawesi Police chief Insp. Gen. Mudji Waluyo said a special team had been formed to investigate the cases.
He added that police had not disclosed previous Molotov cocktail attacks in Makassar that had occurred since September last year, as they were focusing on securing the South Sulawesi gubernatorial election, which took place on Jan. 22.
However, Mudji acknowledged that his men had been unable to identify the perpetrators.
Separately, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, who happened to be in Makassar on Thursday, immediately called a meeting with interreligious and community leaders, local administration officials and heads of the police and military at Makassar’s City Hall. Kalla also inspected the GKI building.
During the meeting, Kalla said the incidents needed to be solved quickly so as to prevent them from triggering a sectarian conflict.
“These incidents remain relatively insignificant, but similar acts must be prevented and these cases must be solved. If not, they will escalate and be hard to overcome. Based on my experience in mitigating conflicts, a sectarian conflict is the most difficult to resolve,” he said.
Kalla, who chairs the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), also urged people to avoid mutual suspicion and respect each other in order to maintain ethnic and religious harmony in the province.
Kalla said he believed the attacks were just an attempt by irresponsible people to pit one group against another and to divide people in South Sulawesi in general, and Makassar in particular.
Spokesman for the GKI in South Sulawesi, Rev. Untung, said the church attacks were not just an issue for the Christian community but a wider social issue that needed all peace-loving people to address together.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Makassar’s interfaith communication forum, Rahim Yunus, strongly condemned the attacks against the five churches.