Christmas spirit in Indonesia

Dec. 15, 2005 | by Rebecca Barnes

Racial and religious rioting in Sidney, Australia, that has brought an undercurrent of anti-Islamic tensions to the surface this month has led to a curfew that may keep some Christians from attending worship services. According to The Australian, church attacks that left one house of worship burned to the ground and another with broken windows, prompted NSW Premier Morris Iemma to yesterday assign extra police to monitor places of worship.

Ironically, Australia may have to look to the Islamic nation of Indonesia in order to find some Christmas spirit this year. Come to think of it, Americans may have to look here as well, considering curfews and rioting won’t keep as many from church this year as apathy.

Among all the reports about what Americans are or are not saying this season and what they are or are not getting into legal trouble over celebrating, there is a report from Indonesia that Christians there are defending themselves in a multi-cultural battle of another sort.

According to Reuters, police have ordered churches in the Indonesian city of Solo to dig holes to throw away suspicious objects that might be bombs. The preventative advice comes amid fears of Christmas-related attacks. Bombings on Christmas Eve in 2000 killed 19 in Indonesia.

Here’s the Christmas spirit part of this bleak news. According to The Jakarta Post, members of several groups, including Muslim groups in Indonesia, have offered to guard churches on Christmas. More than 7,000 deputized defenders will help some 17,000 police secure churches and other strategic areas in Jakarta.

A leader from one group that will step in to help police, the Betawi Association deputy secretary-general Mochtar Muhiddin, told the Jakarta Post, "As an organization of native Jakartans, we are responsible for making the capital secure for its residents, regardless of race or religion." Indonesia is 85 percent Muslim.

Peace on Earth has long been a Christmas prayer. Bridging great divides has long been the celebrated Christmas theme. Still, when it actually happens it is just as difficult to understand as God sending his son to earth as a baby.

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