It’s going to be a very interesting month in December as we enter the so-called “Festive” Season, a politically correct (PC) expression used to avoid having Christmas as the focus.
But Christmas is the focus, and the birthday of the saviour for millions of Christians here in Indonesia is a joyful thing to celebrate. But political correctness is going to be the order of the day as hardliners rule the roost in a very un-PC attempt to discredit and unseat the Jakarta Governor, while everyone tries to keep their head down and out of the firing line.
How did this sad situation arise in a country constitutionally bound to honour all religions equally? Well, it would seem that in all likelihood politics, not religion, is behind the current furor. And politics in Indonesia means big money, or used to, as the President has tried very hard to reel-in corrupt politicians and government officials. But judging by the continuing desperation to seize power, the rewards must still be there for those brave enough to seek them.
But back to the “Festive Season” where malls and shops, hotels and apartments, restaurants and clubs are decorated to celebrate Christmas, call it the “Festive Season”, ultimately ignore the birth of Christ and concentrate their decorations instead on Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, igloos and many wonderful interpretations of “festivity” including (last year) fairies, pink penguins, flying Mini Coopers, pandas and teddy bears! Way to go, Jakarta! Switch on Mariah Carey’s Christmas album too!
So where did this intolerance for “Christmas” come from? Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other religions are free to celebrate their holy days in most countries across the globe (except in the few remaining communist hold-outs) and in Indonesia, Christmas services at churches are absolutely allowed and, in recent years, protected, sometimes by Muslim groups which is truly wonderful. It’s just the symbolism of Christmas that has been removed from public places, perhaps for fear of hard-line raids, or perhaps just in pursuit of good old-fashioned profits from the purchases of the Muslim majority? Who knows? But it’s sad.
Let’s hope that the message behind Christmas is not lost in PC, homogenized, toned-down and merely for commercial promotions. Whatever happens, we must keep the Christmas message which is so relevant and important to people of every race and religion: “Glory to God in the highest and and on earth peace and goodwill to men”. A very joyful Christmas to all our Christian readers and a happy and healthy new year to everyone.
Alistair G. Speirs