Why Christians Refused Jakarta Governor’s Outdoor Christmas Celebration

For Indonesian believers, top court’s change to religious ID card rules was a much better gift.

A month after Anies Baswedan became Jakarta’s new governor in October 2017, he took part in an Islamist rally at the National Monument, a tower that stands as a symbol of Indonesia’s independence. Just weeks later, the governor invited the archipelago’s Christians to celebrate Christmas there.

The move was likely an attempt to soothe emotions rubbed raw by the bitter division of the Jakarta campaign: Baswedan was backed by Islamist hard-liners who charged his Christian rival, incumbent Basuki Purnama (popularly known as Ahok), with blasphemy for referencing the Qur‘an. The charges cost the popular Ahok the campaign, and later earned him two years in jail.

Having received just 58 percent of the vote, Baswedan began attempts to reach out to Ahok’s many supporters at his inauguration, saying that “Indonesia is not based on only one religion” and “unity should also be celebrated in Jakarta.”

But Jakarta’s Christians turned down his offer of using the special location for an outdoor Christmas celebration.

“We appreciated the positive initiative; however, we need to consider that not every religion celebrates their religious holidays openly,” the chair of the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Communion of Churches said during a press conference. “We decided to celebrate Christmas at an indoor venue instead of at the Monas [National Monument] because we didn’t want to cause a disruption at the monument, which is a neutral venue.”

So Baswedan moved the Christmas celebration to an indoor venue on January 5, about two months after Indonesian Christians welcomed a far more substantial victory.

In November, Indonesia’s top court threw out the requirement …

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