Attacker at Indonesian church injures priest

People are seen outside Saint Joseph catholic church following a suspected terror attack by a knife-wielding assailant on a priest during the Sunday service in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia
People are seen outside St. Joseph Catholic Church after a suspected terror attack by a knife-wielding assailant on a priest during the Sunday service in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, on Aug. 28, 2016, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Courtesy of Antara Foto/Irsan Mulyadi/via REUTERS

MEDAN, Indonesia — Indonesian police are investigating a suspected terror attack by a knife-wielding assailant on a priest during Mass at a church, and a bomb squad was deployed to determine whether the attacker’s backpack contained explosives.

There were no serious casualties, though the priest and his attacker suffered minor injuries, according to police in Medan city, northern Sumatra.

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“A terrorism act was carried out on Sunday morning at the Saint Joseph Catholic Church,” said Rina Sari Ginting, spokeswoman for Medan police, in a statement. “Police are interrogating the perpetrator … and will search his house for any bomb-making materials.”

A witness present in the church told Reuters the attacker had sat with other worshippers before running toward the priest.

“There was a small explosion like fireworks and he also took out a knife as he ran toward the priest,” said Timbas Ginting.

A bomb squad was sent to the site to check whether the assailant was carrying explosives, in case the attack was a failed suicide bomb attempt.

“What’s clear is that the pastor was threatened, and (there was) an attempt to hurt the pastor,” Fahrizal, the head of criminal investigations for police in Medan, said.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and the vast majority practice a moderate form of Islam. But there has been a resurgence in fundamentalism during recent years, inspired in part by Islamist militant groups like al-Qaida and Islamic State.

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Jerome Socolovsky


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  • More and more Islamic terror attacks on Christians. This tack is designed to restart the Crusades. It may well work.

  • Rich Christians such as the RCC, Falwell, Osteen, the SBC, Dobson, AFA, Dollar, and other right wing Christianists ought to be sending money and providing security for churches in unsafe parts of the world. They might have to sacrifice one Congressman or private jet, but it seems like a Christianly thing to do.

  • As one whom from your past posts identifies as a Christian, would it be untoward to suggest that you might contribute on your own to the program you suggest? I’m sorry if that sounds like I’m irritated, but I guess I am. Commenting pejoratively about those you have listed is not really productive advice, with the caveat that some of those listed are hardly among my favorites as an avowedly conservative Christian. I have always believed that providing security to churches anywhere is counterintuitive to the proclamation of the Gospel. The risk of martyrdom is a price that the genuine believer must bear in a hostile and hate filled world. It is not a happy risk, but if one can not trust God Himself for the term of our lives here and in the hereafter, then what’s the point?

  • Are you commenting on the increased reporting of such events, as though it were a conspiratorial effort by Christians to reignite the Crusades, or alternatively, that the apparent increasing number of attacks by extremist Muslims is an effort to reignite the Crusades? Since the Crusades of old were instituted by putative Christians, are you suggesting that as a quid pro quo (of sorts) extremist Muslims are now prepared to launch a Crusade in reverse. That would be funny, because the alternative Islamic term is Jihad.

  • Edward, I admit I have very little kindness in my heart for the ones listed in my previous comment. People and groups such as them do great damage to the Christian witness. Polls have shown (No, I don’t have any links.) that the hateful messages they broadcast, under the guise of Christian concern, are a leading reason young people are not joining churches and not learning about Jesus Christ’s mercy. I am angry about that and aware that it shows. I believe Christians whose faith is not centered on politics or condemning others need to speak up whenever possible. We need to make it plain that those people Are Not the voice of Christianity in America.

    So Edward, when you said, “Commenting pejoratively about those you have listed is not really productive advice,” I felt it important to explain why I disagree. In this type of instance, I feel that if I wait till I am without sin, no stones will ever be cast for the benefit of others.

    As always, I appreciate the tone of your comments, and hope you hear mine in the same way.

  • Of course. You and I are not always in concord, yet enough of the time we are so that we are able to support one another’s perspective, and I do appreciate the tone of your comments as well, I guess I wanted to call you out a little bit this time, but only in the mildest sense. I am curious though, naturally we agree on Jesus’ unfathomable Grace, but is there room in your theology for a doctrine that declares that unrepentant sinners will be cast into the outer darkness? I am concerned for the young who are disinterested in joining churches as well, but I don’t want to sacrifice the truth that discipleship is a challenge that often does not allow us our preconceived preferences, but requires us to accept truths that are inconvenient. This is a mark and measure of spiritual maturity. It seems to me today, that our young people could stand to sit quietly and benefit from the wisdom of those who have gone before, but I suppose that is a dynamic tension that always has and always will be with us. It was certainly so in my case. Peace and blessings.

  • “is there room in your theology for a doctrine that declares that unrepentant sinners will be cast into the outer darkness?”

    Yes, but what is sin? What I’m getting at is the focus on consensual sexual activity among adults. That’s way down the list of sins I’m concerned about, but at the top, in bold letters, for those I mentioned earlier. That’s so bizarre really.

    My focus is on sins of omission or commission that cause hurt to others: Greed, violence, child abuse, systemic bigotry, family violence, the love of money. Those kinds of things are wreaking havoc on the livability of this planet and every inhabitant. Two women getting married does not harm anyone or anything. But the other? Yes. That sin needs to be called out and demands attention.

    I like the ELCA “Law and Gospel” model. Yes, make it known that sin is real and very harmful. Just as true is the knowledge that we are deeply, unfathomably loved by a god who is eager to forgive us, if we can simply ask.

    Contrast that with what those nasty hate-the-gay types preach. Wow.

  • I acknowledge the sins, and practices that lead to sin which you have described, yet at the same time I adhere to the traditional Christian view as regards sexual sin, which encompasses a laundry list of offenses. It is interesting to note, that whether from the Left or Right, the conversation on these pages often strays from the initial topic of an article or commentary to the one of human sexuality. In the end of course these will be matters for God to judge. It has been pointed out to me by Ben in Oakland, that for all the vituperation that conservative Christians express towards homosexuality, they are often strangely silent on the question of adultery in the Church which is also clearly condemned in the biblical text. To which I replied, “You are absolutely right.” In my own faith community I have challenged the appointment of elders who have been divorced and remarried because I believe the Pauline letters to Timothy require it, to which my pastor replied, “We need people who have the necessary skills to fill these positions, despite my personal discomfort with their marriage and divorce status.” He would undoubtedly not make the same concession for one who was gay. To me, this is a form of hypocrisy. If the bible calls for a high sexual or marital standard for church officials, that standard has to apply equally to all. But I have gone far afield here. My basic point is, that I believe it is biblically proper to oppose gay marriage, I don’t not hate gays, or express hatred towards them. All people, regardless of any status they hold in any category, are God’s creation and worthy of our respect and deserve human dignity, even when we disagree on certain basic issues. And here I am even further afield from our original topic.

  • It is very interesting, the focus on sexual behavior by vast swaths of the population, including commenter so here. I see that as a validation of my point in my previous comment.

    BTW, you don’t write like a homophobe in my opinion. Your point about divorce illustrates that.

  • Thank you. It is my hope to always communicate my views to others, even in disagreement, with respect and consideration for everyone’s innate human worth.