12/27/2017, 17.19
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Indonesian authorities express best wishes to Christians for a "multicultural" Christmas

by Mathias Hariyadi

Indonesia’s police chief, Armed Forces commander, and Home Affairs minister visited Jakarta cathedral on Christmas eve. Jakarta governor arrived in the church after the liturgy had already started. Official Christmas celebrations will be held tomorrow in Pontianak, West Kalimantan.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo issued a message for the country’s Christian community on the occasion of the Christmas holidays.

In it, he stresses that "The multiculturalism of the Indonesian people is truly a blessing,” urging Indonesians to show respect for this group, too often "taken for granted" in the most populous Islamic country in the world.

On Christmas Eve, Indonesian Police Chief General Tito Karnavian, and Armed Forces Commander Air Chief Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto (picture 2) also took a tough stance against any extremism.

Both, along with other senior officials, paid a courtesy call to Jakarta’s cathedral, ensuring that all security protocols were properly respected by the police and the military.

The delegation, which included Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, was warmly welcomed by Mgr Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, archbishop of Jakarta.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, accompanied by his deputy Sandiaga Uno (picture 3), arrived at the church when the liturgy was already underway. Walking along the aisle, he extended his wishes to the faithful.

"We are here to extend our best wishes: Merry Christmas and let us hope that peace is bestowed and perceived by believers and every citizen," said the governor. With Mgr Suharyo by his side, he reiterated that "Jakarta belongs to everyone".

Despite the presence of important political figures at the Christmas Eve Mass, Indonesia’s official Christmas celebrations will be held tomorrow in Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province. Top government officials are expected.

President Widodo introduced the practice of celebrating Christmas each year in a different city of the country.

As part of the event, Fr Joanes Yandhie Buntoro and his parishioners at St Augustine’s Church put up a Christmas tree using recyclable materials (picture 4). The ten-metre tree, made of six thousand roses using recycled paper, "represents the city’s multiculturalism," the priest said.

In recent years, local Islamist groups have turned their attention to Christian celebrations, generating an atmosphere of tensions around them.

Last week the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) threatened to raid shops to check if Muslim employees are forced to wear Christmas hats or clothes.

Indonesian police reacted by calling for tolerance and respect for the religious celebrations of others.

In light of the situation, in Jakarta many shopping malls have refrained from putting on a festive look. Some radio and television stations have not broadcast Christmas carols, so as not to affect negatively their activities.

In Indonesia, Christians represent about 10 per cent of the population. Protestants number 17 million, whilst Catholics are around 7 million (3 per cent). Christians are often threatened and targeted by extremists and terrorists.

On Christmas Eve in 2000, bomb attacks against 11 churches across the country killed 13 people and wounded another 100.

Since then, every year thousands of members of Indonesia’s two main moderate Islamic organisations (Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah) provide security to Christian places of worship during the holidays.

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