This year’s Christmas ‘best, safest’ in decades, minister Mahfud says

The Jakarta Post – PUBLISHED 26 December 2019, 06:14 pm

Despite the fact that some Christians in the country had to celebrate their holy day without being allowed in their own churches, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD has claimed that this year’s Christmas celebrations were “the best in the last few decades”.

“The government is happy to say that leaders of churches across the country have told us that this year’s Christmas celebrations were the best or safest in the last few decades,” Mahfud told journalists during a press briefing in Jakarta on Thursday.

While acknowledging several situations in which Christians were barred from holding Christmas Mass, the minister said such cases did not affect the overall security conditions nationwide.

Some Indonesian Christians were prevented from holding Christmas prayers and services this year because of legal obstacles.

The year 2019 saw another churchless Christmas for the congregations of two churches in West Java – the Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) in Bogor and the Filadelfia Congregation of Batak Protestant Churches (HKBP Filadelfia) in Bekasi regency. For years they have been denied the right to hold religious activities in their respective houses of worship.

Since 2012, GKI Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia have held Christmas Mass in front of the Presidential Palace.

Meanwhile, Christians in Jambi and Bulukumba in South Sulawesi were also prevented from holding religious services in their own churches.

Christians in the villages of Dharmasraya and Sijunjung regencies in West Sumatra, meanwhile, were able to hold services on Wednesday after their plight made national headlines days prior to Christmas Day. They previously did not obtain permission from nagari (village) leaders to hold services at a follower’s house.

Mahfud said the government would address the issues concerning the churches during an evaluation meeting in January. “For now, the important thing is to create a safe situation first. We, especially the home minister, will look further into the issue later.”

Apart from the worshipping restrictions, the country also saw this week a deadly road accident in Bengkulu. A bus carrying dozens of passengers plunged into a ravine in Pagar Alam, South Sumatra, on Monday evening. Authorities confirmed Thursday that at least 35 people were killed in the accident.

Mahfud said he hoped for safety for the rest of the year and on New Year’s Day.

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