This Christmas appears likely to be a gloomy one for the congregation of GKI Yasmin. Locked out of its church building in Bogor, a West Java city not far from Jakarta, by a populist local mayor, the protestant congregation is likely to gather on the street outside, where it has been forced to conduct its regular Sunday services. But even there, it is likely to face vocal protests from a local hard-line Muslim group, which has long objected to the site of the church, and, it seems, the congregation itself.
In many ways, it’s a sadly appropriate way for the year to end for Indonesia’s 20-million plus Christian community. It’s been a trying 12 months, and shows little sign of improving in the new year. In April, a plot to bomb a church near Jakarta on Good Friday was foiled, while in September a church in Solo was the site of a suicide bomb, although fortunately the bomber himself was the sole fatality. The symbolic assault has raged even if the physical one fails to inflict carnage: last week a statue of the Madonna in Central Java was vandalised, its head lopped off by offenders unknown.