Islamic radicals attacked 200 Christians at a Catholic mass in Indonesia, including children, and forced a priest to flee the church after he was threatened by the mob who harassed him as he read the Bible during a memorial service.
AsiaNews reported on Wednesday that the incident occurred earlier this week at the church of St. Peter Purwosari, near Surakarta in Central Java, where 200 Christians had gathered to celebrate mass 1,000 days after the death of one of their loved ones.
Usually such commemorations are held at the house of a family member, but this time village elders gave permission for the gathering to take place at a public facility, due to the large number of people. Several non-Catholics, including the village chief, were also in attendance.
The two Muslim attackers who entered the building started to heckle and insult the priest after the first reading of the Bible, and although they were removed by police, they came back with a larger group of people and shut down the mass.
"Just after communion they began to intimidate those present, including children, demanding that the mass be interrupted. Eventually the priest, Fr. Adrianus Sulistiyono, was forced to flee along with his assistant," one of the Catholic witnesses said.
The potential affiliation of the attackers to any known terror groups was not made immediately clear.
Christians in Indonesia have been on edge over a potential attack, with a teenage supporter of the Islamic State terror group coming close to killing hundreds of worshipers in another incident in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, in late August.
The 18-year-old attacker was reportedly carrying a backpack full of explosives as he attended the Sunday mass among Christians. But when the bomb failed to go off, he pulled out an axe and attacked the Catholic priest.
Later it was revealed that the suspect, identified as Ivan Armadi Hasugian, had been inspired by the leader of the IS jihadi group, which has been carrying out a genocide against Christians and other minorities in the territories of Iraq and Syria.
Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said that the 18-year-old had become "obsessed" with Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS.
"Having been fed misleading news on the internet, he became obsessed [with al-Baghdadi],'' he said of the suspect.
National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Agus Rianto added that Hasugian had been paid $753.86 to carry out the attack by a "mastermind," who has not yet been identified.
IS has been looking to spread its influence in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, which has prompted the government to act. Back in December, officials deployed close to 1,500 police officers to guard Christian churches over the Christmas period, fearful of another major IS attack, such as the one in Paris last November, where 130 people were killed.