The mayor’s memo sparks controversy. Christian man counters that Christians simply go to Mass: “We are not in the street all night setting off fireworks and playing the drum!" In 2015, saying "Merry Christmas" was banned in Banda Aceh.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Malang Mayor Sutiaji (East Java Province) on Monday issued an internal memo to city officials with two orders: businesses (stores, shops, entertainment venues) are asked not to force their employees to wear Christmas-themed clothes and accessories; and public officials must monitor Christmas festivities by Protestants and Catholics to prevent them from annoying others.
The memo, which was quickly made public, sparked criticism from Christians and others. But in his defence, the mayor reiterated his commitment to democracy and respect for pluralism and social harmony among various religious communities.
“My point is clear: I don’t prohibit Christian and Catholic communities from celebrating their Christmas season,” he said.
Instead, he objects to Muslims wearing Christmas paraphernalia for marketing purposes, noting nevertheless that his “exhortation” can “fuel many interpretations about Christian communities.”
For some, the mayor’s explanation doesn’t add up. "I am personally offended,” said Aditya Wisnu. “Since when have we Christians celebrated Christmas noisily bothering others? What we do is attend Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We are not in the street all night setting off fireworks and playing the drum!"
Indonesia, the most populous Islamic country in the world, is not new to local government officials taking an anti-Christian stance. In 2015, Illizza Sa'aduddin Djamal, the first woman mayor of Banda Aceh, decided that Christians could not be greeted with "Merry Christmas" and banned New Year celebrations.