The suicide bomb attacks at three churches in Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday morning and the subsequent terror attacks have put the entire country on edge, filling many people here with feelings of sorrow, fear and anger.
But for at least some of the family members of people killed in those horrific acts of violence, there is another feeling, one that is probably hard for a lot of people to understand: forgiveness.
Aloysius Bayu Rendra Wardhana had worked as the head of security at the Santa Maria Catholic Church in Surabaya. Many have praised Aloysius as a hero for trying to stop the two suicide bombers who targeted his church. He reportedly grabbed the perpetrators and pulled them off the bike right before their bomb exploded, preventing them from getting closer to the congregation.
Rosalia Siswaty, Aloysius’ mother, posted a much-shared eulogy for her son on Facebook, in which she wrote:
Aloysius Bayu Rendra Wardhana. Akhirnya maut menjemputmu dengan cara yang tragis seperti itu, anakku. Ketika kamu…
Aloysius Bayu Rendra Wardhana. In the end death picked you up in such a tragic way, my son. While you were serving the Lord during Holy Mass with the congregation, death came to take you away. Go my son, God has provided the most beautiful place for you. Your wife and two children are the responsibility of God. Safe journey, my dear child. I will be there to go with you to the final resting place.
The rest of the post seems directed towards her son’s killers, with Rosalia writing:
Why were you always hostile to us? To take away the lives of those who are worshipping? Why do you hate us so much, is those what your beliefs teach? But no matter what you have done, all Christians in Indonesia, including my family whom you have victimized, will always and must love you. Because that is the command of the Lord Jesus that I worship.
Kurnianto, who is the son of another victim of the Santa Maria Church bombing, gave this moving interview to Kompas TV on Monday.
He tells the reporter that he asks his mother for forgiveness for anything he or his family has done wrong and that they pray she is now in heaven. Then he says:
“As for the perpetrators, we also forgive them, and are grateful that my mother is now in the House of God. That is what I believe.”
Kurnianto tells the reporter that his mother had come to Surabaya earlier in the week for an exhibition and had chosen to go to the Santa Maria Church that morning, despite there being another church closer to her hotel. He says that perhaps it was God’s plan, because his mother, along with Aloysius, helped prevent the perpetrators from getting closer to the congregation before their bomb went off.
Finally the reporter asks if he has any message that he’d like to tell the public, to which Kurnianto replies that there is no religion that teaches evil, that all religions are good, that the government is doing everything it can for the people and we ask that God protect this country and its people.
The pastor of the Santa Maria church, A Kurdo Irianto, also released an official statement from the church containing similar sentiments.
“The Catholic Church is not afraid of the terror that threatens the life of the Indonesian people. Despite our sadness, the Catholic Church sincerely forgives the perpetrators of terror and prays for those perpetrators that have become victims.”
In another touching response, the Gusdurian Batang Community (named for former Indonesian president and defender of plurality Gus Dur), along with several other Muslim groups, held a joint solidarity and prayer action event at the Santa Maria church on Monday.
Indonesia is going to have to go through a lot of painful healing as we recover from these attacks. It will take more than the ability to see with clarity the true causes of hatred, but also the grace of forgiveness and brotherhood between those of different faiths, to truly unify this country. In these people, we see hope.