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Indonesia ends policy of referring to Jesus by Islamic name

Indonesia ends policy of referring to Jesus by Islamic name

 


Christian church members wait for news in the church closed by local authorities after months of violence and hostility towards the congregation from Muslim vigilantes in Bekasi, outside Jakarta, September 16 2010. Police arrested a local leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), an Islamic self-defense group on September 15, 2010, following an armed attack on church elders that shocked moderates and raised fears for pluralism in this predominantly Muslim country.  A group of men stabbed the Protestant church member and beat a pastor while they were on their way to a church service in Bekasi on September 12, 2010.
Christian church members wait for news in the church closed by local authorities after months of violence and hostility towards the congregation from Muslim vigilantes in Bekasi, outside Jakarta, September 16 2010. Police arrested a local leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), an Islamic self-defense group on September 15, 2010, following an armed attack on church elders that shocked moderates and raised fears for pluralism in this predominantly Muslim country. A group of men stabbed the Protestant church member and beat a pastor while they were on their way to a church service in Bekasi on September 12, 2010. | ROMÉO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images

Indonesia has officially changed a decades-old state policy of referring to Christian holidays by their Islamic names, such as Isa Messiah for Jesus Christ. President Joko Widodo signed a presidential decree to mark the change to accommodate the country's Christian population, which has the largest Muslim population in the world.

Deputy Minister of Religion Saiful Rahmat Dasuki said the change came after Christian and Catholic communities requested that the names of some national holidays be updated, local media outlet VOI reported. reported.

The decree impacts the names of four national holidays, aligning them with Christian beliefs in order to harmonize the terms of the holidays and adapt to community dynamics and legal considerations. Relevant holidays include the birth (Christmas), death (Good Friday), Resurrection (Easter) and ascension (Ascension) of Jesus Christ.

The majority of Indonesians are considered progressive and moderate. Indonesia's constitution is based on the five principles of Pancasila which uphold the nation's belief in one God and social justice, humanity, unity and democracy for all, which guarantees religious freedom.

However, many extremist groups in Indonesia oppose Pancasila.

Churches often face opposition from groups who attempt to obstruct the construction of non-Muslim places of worship. Human Rights Watch previously said that more than 1,000 churches in the archipelago had been closed due to pressure from these groups.

Indonesia is ranked No. 42 on Open Doors USA's 2024 Global Watch List, countries where Christians face the most extreme levels of persecution.

The situation for Christians has deteriorated in recent years, with Indonesian society increasingly influenced by conservative interpretations of Islam. Polls consistently show that young people, in particular, hold conservative views, and regulations on Islamic dress are becoming more common, according to Open Doors USA. Many converts from Islam face pressure from their families. However, the intensity of the pressure depends on each family and location. Most pressure on Christian converts takes the form of isolation, verbal abuse and ostracization. Only a small percentage of converts face physical violence because of their Christian faith and may be forced to move to another part of Indonesia.

Religious leaders and scholars have welcomed the decision to rename Isa Messiah as Jesus Christ, seeing it as a step towards reducing misunderstandings and friction between different religious communities.

The Southeast Asian country has 20.4 million Protestants and 8.42 million Catholics, who together make up 10.58% of the population of 272.23 million, according to 2021 data from the General Directorate of the Department of Population and Civil Status (Dukcapil) of the Ministry of Interior. .

Among Indonesia's population, 236.53 million (86.88%) identify as Muslim.

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