ROME– Pope Francis said Sunday he’s praying for the Christian community in Indonesia after multiple suicide bombers killed at least 11 people who were participating in religious services.
“I’m particularly close to the dear people of Indonesia, especially to the Christian community of the city of Surabaya strongly hit by the grave attacks on places of worship,” the pope said after his weekly Sunday Regina Coeli prayer.
CNN reported that suspected suicide bombers struck three different churches in Indonesia on Sunday morning.
The number of deaths is still uncertain, but at least 11 have been killed in the attacks and scores more injured.
“I elevate my prayer for the victims and their relatives,” he said. “Together we invoke the God of peace so that he makes these violent actions cease.”
The pontiff also prayed that in the heart of everyone affected there’s no place for “hatred and violence” but “reconciliation and fraternity.”
The attacks took place in Surabaya, a port city on the east coast of Java Island.
The explosions targeted three Christian churches: Santa Maria Catholic Church, the Indonesian Christian Church and the Pentecostal Central Church.
Four people were killed in the first explosion, and two more died in each of the other churches. More died after arriving at the hospital.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi tweeted her condolences to the bombing victims with the hashtags #UnitedAgainstTerrorism and #WeAreNotAfraid.
There are some 30 million Christians in Indonesia, while the majority of the country’s population of 260 million are Muslim.
According to Open Doors International, which monitors Christian persecution worldwide, persecution is high in Indonesia, and political, cultural and religious forces all contribute to the Christian persecution in this Southeast Asian country.
Conservative Muslim political parties and radical Islamic pressure groups exert great influence, resulting in Sharia (Islamic law)-inspired policies and public opinion that opposes Christianity.