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ICC Note: The Governor of Jakarta, an Islamist organizes the event “Celebration of Christmas” at the National Monument. However, Christians have criticized that the choice of the location, symbol of Indonesia’s struggle for independence, is inappropriate. Last December, radical Islamists held a rally at this venue that eventually took down former Governor of Jakarta, a Christian and ethnic Chinese and placed him in jail. Christians criticize the government’s attempt to gain “political benefits” by exploiting the religious festivity and rejected the invitation to the event. 

12/18/2017 Indonesia (Asia News) – Christians have turned down an invitation by the Governor of Jakarta, Anies Baswedan, to participate in the “Celebration of Christmas” organised at the National Monument (Monumen Nasional, abbreviated Monas), a tower in the centre of Merdeka square, which symbolises Indonesia’s fight for independence.

The choice of the location and the suspected ulterior motives of the Islamist governor led to refusal.

Inaugurated in 1975, over the years the monument has become the venue of many Islamic events and celebrations, until the former governor of the capital, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, decided to make it a “neutral” public space.

His successor Anies Baswedan, who took office last October, changed the regulations that banned religious and cultural ceremonies in the park.

On 29 November, the new governor authorised some Islamic organisations to hold a rally, in which he participated along with some of the country’s most important radical leaders (picture).

The rally took place on 2 December, exactly one year after violent protests broke out against his predecessor, an ethnic Chinese and a Christian, whom extremists had accused of blasphemy.

The accusation affected the elections to Anies Baswedan’s benefit as well as the controversial trial that led to Ahok’s conviction and two-year sentence in prison.

Most civil society groups have strongly criticised the governor’s “Christmas initiative” and his attempt to “benefit from it” by using the religious festivity to boost his support among Christian voters, still outraged by how he led his election campaign against Ahok in April.

The Council of Churches of Indonesia (PGI) has made public its opposition to the event in a statement released last Saturday by Manuel Raintung, head of PGI Jakarta.

“We must make sure that Monas remains a national monument where the spirit of unity among the different Indonesian peoples can show itself”, said the statement, which condemned the use of religion for political ends.

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