Pope Prays For Christians Killed By Pre-Teen ISIS Suicide Bombers

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

Pope Francis prayed Sunday for Indonesian Christians after a string of deadly family-led suicide bombings killed 11 worshipers in three Indonesian churches.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church offered his condolences and invoked God’s mercy for the Christian community of Indonesia in response to Sunday morning suicide bombings carried out by a family of six — a husband and wife, two teenage sons, and daughters aged 12 and nine, according to Crux Now. They targeted the Pentecostal Central Church, Santa Maria Catholic Church, and the Indonesian Christian Church in Surabaya.

Authorities believe the husband and wife were members of the radical Islamic terror group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, which is directly linked with the Islamic State. All six members of the family died in the course of the bombings and took the lives of at least 11 Christian worshipers. (RELATED: String Of Deadly Terrorist Attacks Rocks Muslim-Majority Indonesia In Just 24 Hours [VIDEO])

“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,” Francis said, according to Crux. “I elevate my prayer for the victims and their relatives. Together we invoke the God of peace so that he makes these violent actions cease.”

The father, Dita Oepriarto, dropped off his wife, Puji Kuswat, with their two daughters at Indonesian Christian Church where Kuswat detonated one bomb, killing four worshipers. Oepriarto drove his van to Pentecost Central Church and detonated a bomb inside the van just outside the church’s front entrance, killing two. Around the same time, the two teenage sons rode motorcycles to Santa Maria Catholic Church where they detonated another bomb, killing two. Forensic evidence indicated the attackers had the bombs strapped to their bodies. More victims died after arriving at the hospital.

Two other explosions — an attack against a police station and a premature detonation in a terrorist family’s apartment — followed shortly after the attack.

Francis also prayed that “hatred and violence” would have no place in the hearts of those affected by the acts of terrorism, and that survivors and mourners would instead desire “reconciliation and fraternity.”

The Christian advocacy group Open Doors International classifies Indonesia as a country with high persecution against Christians. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Christians and other religious minorities in the country have faced legal persecution because of Indonesia’s blasphemy laws, but face mostly “local level in confrontations with radical Islamic groups,” according to the organization.

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