ICC Note: Christians will be on their guard this Christmas in Indonesia as thousands of police take positions at nearly 40,000 churches across the country to protect against terrorist attacks. In 2000, Indonesia was hit with multiple Christmas bombings, killing 18. Many churches in the Jakarta area have been forced out of their buildings by Islamic radical groups.
12/23/2012 Indonesia (Jakarta Globe) - At Jakarta’s biggest shopping centers, lights twinkle on plastic firs and displays are buried under yards of cotton-wool snow. People of all religions can be seen having their photographs taken with a heavily costumed Santa Claus and his helpers. It is hard to tell from these open festivities that Christmas is in fact a minority celebration in Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.
Christians make up less than 10 percent of the population of 240 million. Protestantism and Catholicism count for two of the six officially recognized religions. But despite Christianity’s official status it still faces opposition in Indonesia from terrorist groups, community leaders and even government officials.
Churches in Indonesia are subject to closure from public pressure, face denial of permits to build in the first place and even experience episodes of violence.
In 2000, the nation was rocked by a series of bombings that targeted churches on Christmas Eve. Eighteen people were killed in the blasts that hit churches from North Sumatra through to West Nusa Tenggara.
This Christmas, almost 38,500 churches across the country will be guarded by police. Special attention will be paid to areas believed to be prime targets for terrorist attacks, including East and Central Java, North Sumatra, Central Sulawesi, Bali, Maluku and the Jakarta region.
“There are several regional police jurisdictions that have received special attention,” Insp. Gen. Badrodin Haiti, the National Police’s assistant head of operations, said last week. “We have specifically identified the cities that are indicated as potential targets for terrorist activities.”
In Jakarta alone, 6,000 police personnel will be stationed to keep the peace, as part of an annual strategy known as “Operation Candle.”
For Indonesia’s Christians, it remains to be seen whether the peaceful celebrations held in commercial spaces can be repeated in churches across the country this Christmas.