Saturday, December 22, 2012

Protecting Pluralism This Holiday Season

With Christmas now only three days away, churches across the nation are making preparations for the special day, getting ready to celebrate one of the holiest days of the year for Christians.

But year after year, even as they look forward to Christmas, churches also seek additional protection from law enforcement officials for fear of attacks or disruptions. In the past, terrorists have attacked churches as Christians celebrated mass, and the possibility of future attacks cannot be discounted.

In recent years another disturbing trend has arisen. Churches have come under increasing pressure from groups alleging to represent local communities, forcing them to stop their services because of violations of building codes.

Last year, for instance, Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) followers in Aur Duri subdistrict, in the outskirts of Jambi, were forced to hold Christmas and New Year services on the street in front of the church as it was sealed off by the local government and residents. The reason given was that the church had not obtained the proper building permit.

To their credit, the Jambi police have pledged to protect any church that requests special security services. According to the police spokesman, officers will be dispersed across the province to maintain law and order and to ensure that no church is forced to close over Christmas and New Year.

The National Police said it would deploy a total of 102,000 officers, including military personnel, to secure this year’s Christmas and New Year celebrations across the nation in the 14 provinces considered to be prone to attacks.

We praise the police for taking this issue seriously. As a nation that guarantees freedom of worship and one which upholds the values of pluralism, no community should feel insecure when practicing its faith. This is what it means to live in a free society. Editorial, Jakarta Globe

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