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12/20/2021 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – As Christians get ready for the Christmas celebration, the Head of the Regional Office of the Ministry of Religion Affair in South Sulawesi published a letter containing an appeal to put up banners saying Merry Christmas and New Year at every office of the Ministry of Religion Affair in South Sulawesi, in the hope to promote religious harmony.

The letter, published on December 14, 2021, soon drew strong reactions from the public. The United Muslims Forum visited the regional office of the Ministry of Religion and asked that the appeal be canceled on the grounds that the action “sparked anxiety in the community.”

In response, the government stated that the purpose of the appeal was solely to respect religious differences and was only intended as an internal memo for the Ministry of Religion Affair. The Muslim group’s protest seemed successful since the government withdrew the gesture. Muslim activists were grateful and hoped that there will never be a similar appeal made in the future.

According to UCA News, Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, a member of a presidential unit promoting communal tolerance, said opposition to such an innocent gesture displayed pettiness that needed to be eliminated from Indonesian society.

This situation shows that in Indonesia, there is still discrimination against religious minorities. As a result of growing radicalism, many Muslims believe that they are doing what Allah has commanded them to do and they must follow. This causes divisions in society and undermines solidarity in a nation that upholds “Pancasila,” a pluralistic ideology for all.

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