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Indonesia: On the eve of the presidential vote Widodo changes the name of Christian festivals

On the eve of the presidential and parliamentary vote in Indonesia – the most populous Muslim nation in the world – in a climate marked by protests over the “interventionism” of the outgoing leader Joko Widodo in favor of Prabowo Subianto, there is a small but significant change for Christians.

In fact, with presidential decree 8/2024 regarding public holidays, the head of state last week decided to officially change the name of the anniversaries, moving from the previous Islamic name to the Christian term.

From February, therefore, the term “Isa al Masih” will no longer be used, but the more appropriate “Jesus Christ” will be used.

Jokowi’s decision will concern, in particular, the naming of four holidays present in the country’s calendar: Christmas, which from today will be called the “Day of the Birth of Jesus Christ”; Good Friday, which is the “Day of the Death of Jesus Christ”; Easter, now “Day of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ” and the ascension to heaven, from “Isa al Masih” to “Jesus Christ”.

The choice was based on Jokowi’s desire to show the increasingly plural face of the country in terms of religious faith and confessional harmony.

The possibility of changing the name of the Christian holidays had been discussed for two years, since the Minister for Religious Affairs Yaqut Cholil Qoumas had proposed it during a meeting with the Indonesian bishops in the Moluccas in April 2022.

A choice linked to the request of groups of faithful who asked to make the terminology more “Christian”, compared to using the Islamic denomination.

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Without particular protests or criticism from other parties, in particular those linked to the Muslim faction, the initial idea took shape and became law precisely in these days on the eve of the elections.

A non-random choice, because Jokowi himself, in driving the candidacy of his Defense Minister Subianto – and of his son Gibran Rakabuming as vice-president – emphasized the country’s multi-cultural, plural, and open element.

Meanwhile, from the latest findings, Subianto’s victory seems to be looming, stronger than the controversies and attacks of recent weeks that have touched the current leadership and the government.

A poll released today (conducted between January 29 and February 5) credits the outgoing Defense Minister with 51.9% of the preferences, followed by the former governor of Jakarta with 23.3% and 20.3% for Ganjar Pranowo, former leader of Central Java province.

However, in general, all the findings of the last period give the duo an overwhelming majority compared to their rivals. Jokowi, as the outgoing president is popularly known, has been accused of interference and bias over his implicit support for Prabowo.

These charges have been rejected by the head of state, who claimed a position of impartiality towards the challengers to his succession. In the past, Widodo was targeted by the Council for Electoral Ethics for having supported with a coup the modification of the law on the minimum age to favor his son’s candidacy for the vice presidency.

This article was first published by AsiaNews

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