Six months ago, Surabaya was rocked by a series of suicide bombings. Three churches and a police station were attacked. A bomb also exploded in an apartment complex in nearby Sidoarjo during a police raid. All in all, twenty-eight people died and fifty were injured.
So, as the city prepares for Christmas – there are carolers in the centrally-located Tunjungan Plaza, team Ceritalah caught up with the 52-year-old, Pak Agustinus Dono Chrismiandi, (better known as Pak Andi), whose family were injured in the attacks.
Pak Andi is a Roman Catholic and father of two. The Surabaya native is barely a meter and a half tall, but his firm build and prominent cheekbones speak to his poise and charm.
On 13 May, his family were at the Santa Maria Tak Bercela Church on Jalan Ngagel – in downtown Surabaya. The attack on the church was orchestrated by Islamic State-linked Jamaah Anshar Daulah, but was carried out by two teenage brothers, Yusuf and Firman Oepriarto, aged seventeen and fifteen. Their parents – Puji Kuswati and Dita – along with their two sisters, detonated explosives at two other churches, taking their own lives in the process.
“My family and I were headed for Sunday Mass to the Santa Maria Church, for the second service at 7.30 AM, as usual. They went ahead of me in a Grab car, along with my father and arrived at 7.10 AM, which was when the bomb at the church went off,” Pak Andi recalls.
“When I arrived at the church, I thought to myself: ‘Why are all these motorcycles stopping on the road? Why is there smoke?’ After someone told me a bomb had gone off, I panicked and immediately looked for my family.”
His seventeen-year-old son, Vincentius, remembers the horrifying moments well: “I got out of the car to open the door for my grandfather. As soon as I shut the door, I heard an explosion from behind me and the sheer force slammed me into the car. I blacked out for a bit, I couldn’t see anything – I ended up with a scar below my left eye and my grandfather sustained injuries to his head and chest. He also needs a hearing aid now from the magnitude of the blast.”
Thankfully, all of Pak Andi’s family members survived but many other families will be celebrating Christmas with empty seats surrounding the dinner table. This attack, the first in Indonesia to be carried out by young children, has left the city of Surabaya visibly scarred.
This year, Xmas celebrations are subdued – partly due to pressure from FPI to not go overboard with the festivities.
Moreover, as Pak Andi explains, “I’m still traumatised from that day – from what happened to my family. Every time I see a Grab car, in particular a white Toyota Innova, I’ll remember what happened to my children. But I’m no longer afraid, as long as I keep my faith strong and close.”
“I’m looking forward to Christmas. Everyone will be together at my youngest brother’s house.”
Indeed, it would appear that Surabayans (of which 9.1 percent are Christian) have managed to put the attacks behind them and move on. The well-known Mayor, Ibu Tri Risma has done a great deal to ease the tension and restore public confidence.
“Every thirteenth day of the month we gather together with other members of the community and the victims’ families at the Church to remember those we’ve lost. But I don’t feel the need for revenge. I’ve forgiven them, because revenge is like poison. My hope now is that people from different religions continue to engage each other so that we can be harmonious and tolerant – and love each other. It’s something I strive to teach my children.”
As the world looks to the New Year, the task of forgiving and restarting will be a much harder task for the families of those affected – an aberration from the typical Christmas celebration.
Surabaya was dealt a heavy blow but its people – resilient and kind – will rebound, stronger than ever.
*Follow Karim Raslan on Twitter @fromKMR / Instagram @fromkmr
** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.