Saying there was no room for intolerance in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Monday condemned recent attacks on religious leaders, a day after a sword-wielding man slashed parishioners at a Catholic church and injured five people, including a German priest.
Jokowi made his statement on the same day reports emerged that Islamic hardliners had been issuing calls for knife attacks in Indonesia.
“There’s no space for those who are against tolerance in our country, Indonesia, through both hate speech and violent acts,” Jokowi told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta. “We have been living together side by side in harmony for decades despite diverse religious beliefs.”
On Sunday, a 23-year-old man identified as Suliyono burst in, decapitated statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary and began slashing worshipers at St. Lidwina Catholic Church in central Yogyakarta province. He injured five people, including priest Karl Edmund Prier and a police officer before he was shot, officials said.
National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said Suliyono had recently visited cities known as hotbeds for militants, such as Poso in Central Sulawesi province and Magelang in Central Java province, according to the preliminary investigation. The suspect had planned to travel to Syria to fight with rebel groups there, Tito said.
“There’s a strong indication that the attacker was radicalized, which led him to violence,” Tito told reporters.
Yogyakarta Police Chief Ahmad Dhofiri said Suliyono underwent surgery for his injuries.
“We hope to begin questioning him today [Monday] because he just recovered from surgery this morning,” Ahmad told reporters. “We will be supported by Densus 88 . We don’t know yet if the investigation will be carried out in Yogyakarta or Jakarta.”
Densus 88 is an elite unit often deployed in counter-terrorist operations.
Tito said investigators were trying to determine if Suliyono acted as a lone wolf – an individual who carries out terror attacks by himself – or if he was associated with a militant group.
Sunday’s attack was the latest in a series of intolerant acts recently, many targeting religious leaders.
On Jan. 27, a Muslim leader, Umar Basri, was tortured while praying at a mosque in Bandung, West Java. In February, a Muslim cleric, H.R. Prawoto, was tortured by a man who suffers from mental illness in West Java.
On Feb. 7, a group forced Buddhist monk Mulyanto Nurhalim and his followers to stop using his house as a place for the local Buddhist community to conduct religious activities.
National Police Spokesman Inspector Gen. Setyo Wasisto said officers are investigating intolerant acts against religious leaders to sooth potential tensions.
“We are working hard to solve the problems. But the police cannot work alone,” he told BenarNews. “Participation from members of the public, particularly religious leaders, are important to prevent further intolerant acts.”
Police need to anticipate and prevent any potential acts that threaten security targeting religious leaders or use religious sentiments to divide Indonesians, said Hendardi, chairman of Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based human rights group.
“Police are urged to take firm action against these intolerant groups for the sake of law enforcement,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, an unnamed counter-terror official told Channel NewsAsia that radical groups were calling on militants last week to carry out attacks using knives. The official did not release details about what was said or what platforms were used to deliver the message.
Jokowi issued his statement as a Jakarta court sentenced JAD leader Zainal Anshori to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of trying to smuggle five weapons from the southern Philippines.
Last week, another pro-Islamic State JAD member was sentenced to 10 years for smuggling handguns, funding terrorism and plotting attacks in Indonesia.
Indonesian police blamed JAD for a January 2016 terrorist attack in central Jakarta that left eight people dead, including four perpetrators, in the first terror act claimed by IS in Southeast Asia. As many as 156 suspected terrorists were caught in Indonesia last year and another 16 were shot and killed during police raids.