Top alert for Widodo's swearing-in ceremony, including greater security for churches
by Mathias Hariyadi

The president will take his oath of office, starting his second term, on Sunday. The authorities are deploying some 30,000 soldiers and police in the capital, fearing attacks and violent protests. The Bishops' Conference urges greater vigilance.


Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Indonesian government has put its Armed Forces on alert, boosting security measures to prevent terrorist attacks or violent street protests that might interfere with the inauguration of President Joko Widodo (who is on his second term).

The ceremony is set for Sunday, when Christians gather in churches for Sunday services. Given the situation, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI) has sent a note to parish priests and custodians of the country's churches, urging them to exercise strict vigilance to ensure the safety of the faithful.

As part of their plan, the authorities are deploying some 30,000 soldiers and police in and around the capital. Troops will be sent to several areas of the city; in particular Senayan, a prominent sub-district in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, home to many government administrations.

President Widodo and Vice President Amin Ma‘ruf (pictured) will take the oath of office in the Parliament building (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat).

On Tuesday, the National Police (Polri) reported that Islamic terrorists with the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) were ready to carry out suicide attacks in several locations on the island of Java on the day of their inauguration.

Since 10 October, the day of the failed attack against Minister Wiranto, Indonesia’s counter-terrorism squad (Densus 88) has arrested 36 suspected terrorists in various regions.

Christian places of worship were among the objectives of the latest jihadi plot. In light of rising tensions Mgr Vincentius Sensi Potokota spoke about the situation.

The prelate, who is the Archbishop of Ende and chairs the Episcopal Commission for the Laity (Komisi Kerawam KWI), released a statement (picture 3), signed by Fr Paulus Christian Siswantoko, the Commission’s executive secretary.

"Given the stabbing of [. . .] Minister Wiranto and a series of arrests [. . .], we are obliged to increase attention and raise awareness to protect our Churches,” reads the letter. “Preventive measures are required since the presidential inauguration will take place at the same time as Sunday services.”

"We are convinced that state security forces will be able to safeguard our churches and the Catholic community. It is however appropriate to remain vigilant and watch out for unknown people or suspicious visitors in our places of worship, use effectively our own security staff, maintain good contacts with local authorities, and, if possible, install CCTV cameras."

Other Catholic leaders have issued similar statements calling for calm across the country. "We will attend the swearing-in ceremony, which we expect to take place in a peaceful atmosphere," said Mgr Agustinus Agus, archbishop of Pontianak. "We condemn categorically any protest that leads to incidents of violence or vandalism (video 1),” said Fr Father Prasetyo. Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko of Semarang posted a video in which he invites the faithful to pray for the country (video 2).

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