Remembering Martyrs: Surabaya Church Bombings

13 May 2023

On a Sunday morning at 7:30, two brothers, aged sixteen and eighteen, rode their motorcycles to the Santa Maria Catholic Church located in Surabaya, Indonesia. The boys detonated their explosives, resulting in the deaths of six people in addition to themselves.

Within five minutes, their father drove a car loaded with explosives into the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church. The bomb went off outside the building, killing the driver and six churchgoers.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, the boys’ mother and two sisters aged nine and twelve approached the Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church with explosives attached to their bodies. They detonated their explosives when stopped by a security guard, killing themselves and the security guard, but no church members were killed in the explosion. Within the span of ten minutes, a single family attacked three different churches, killing twelve Christians and injuring more than forty men and women.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the bombings soon after the attacks, and it was later discovered that the family had spent time in Syria and was working with the group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, an Indonesian militant group with close ties to ISIS.

Despite Indonesia being the most populous Muslim nation globally, attacks against Christians have become less common in recent years; however, radicalisation remains a growing problem. The bombings in Surabaya marked the first incident of church bombings in the generally peaceful community. Instead of succumbing to fear, the bombings have united the local Christian community.

Even though they expected to suspect, hate, and close themselves off from one another, church members stood together, taking care of the wounded and even initiating the rebuilding process. They will not be driven away by fear, and echoing the prayer of Jesus on the cross, a church leader said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:26

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