Malang bishop: "Azahari bombs out to destroy churches"

The bishop tells AsiaNews about warnings from police and leading figures in the Muslim world. "They do not scare us; we go ahead with dialogue and are at peace with leaders of all religions".

Malang (AsiaNews) – The bishop of Malang Diocese has told AsiaNews of terrorist threats against several Catholic Churches, targeted for destruction a week after the end of the Idul Fitri festivities. Mgr Herman Joseph Pandoyoputro said: "The information is circumstantial and reached me through many sources including public security and a prominent Muslim leader."

The Cathedral of Mt Carmel in Jalan is among the targets, together with St Anthony Parish in Pasuran, already destroyed by bomb blasts in Christmas of 2000.

"Yesterday, after an informal meeting with religious leaders, one of the leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) [the country's largest Muslim organization] came to me said: 'Monsignor, it would be better that churches should be tightly guarded during the coming weeks, at least until Christmas," said the bishop.

The meeting was organised to discuss the new book of the head of the Protestant Church in Java, Reverend Wismo Adi. "We participated in the discussion and after I was given this warning."

After its destruction and reconstruction, the Church of St Anthony became a meeting point for moderates from all religions in the country, and another bomb may well have served to destroy this harmony. "But inter-faith dialogue and harmony are well maintained," continued the bishop. "We are friends and we often meet even in an informal manner to discuss a number of matters, not only with leaders of other Christian denominations but mostly with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Confucians."

According to Mgr Pandoyoputro, the attack was set to take place one Saturday or Sunday after the Idul Fitri festivities, which came to a close on 3-4 November, "the day after tomorrow, during the weekend masses". Even the Pelita Hidup Sejati [Light of true life, a Catholic lay organisation] has informed the bishop of the danger threatening the Malag Churches.