Indonesia to replace 'Isa Almasih' with 'Yesus Kristus'

Indonesian Christians have long demanded not to use Islamic terms when referring to Jesus Christ in official communications

UCA News reporter

Updated: September 13, 2023 01:20 AM GMT

Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, announces the replacing of the term Isa Almasih with Yesus Kristus, the official translation of Jesus Christ by Indonesia Christians on Sept. 12. (Photo supplied)

The Indonesian government announced a change in the use of terms referring to Jesus Christ in official documents responding to longstanding demands of Christians not to use Islamic terms.

In an announcement on Sept. 12, the Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, said that the government had decided to officially replace the term Isa Almasih with Yesus Kristus, the official term that Indonesian Christians use for Jesus Christ.

In official documents, such as in the list of national religious holidays, the government will use the term Yesus Kristus, he said.

The change in nomenclature was based on a proposal from the Ministry of Religion Affairs, Effendy said during a conference.

He said the change of the nomenclature would be approved by a presidential regulation.

Saiful Rahmat Dasuki, Deputy Minister of Religion Affairs, said that the change was initiated by a proposal from Christians.

This is a suggestion from Protestants and Catholics that the name of the nomenclature be changed to what they believe in, he said.

In the official calendar, the government determines three national holidays related to Christianity, namely Christmas, Good Friday and the Ascension.

These Christian feasts have been associated with the term Almasih and are expressed as the birth of Isa Almasih, the Death of Isa Almasih and the Ascension of Isa Almasih.

Father Yohanes Jeharut, executive secretary of the Lay Apostolic Commission of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, told UCA News that the change is something good for Christians.

Franciscan Father Bernardinus Andereas Atawolo, lecturer in dogmatic theology at the Jakarta-based Driyarkara School of Philosophy, called this policy worthy of appreciation.

The nomenclature 'Jesus Christ' contains a meaning that is closer to the hearts of Christians: it refers to the divine nature of Jesus; He is Christ, the Savior of the world, he said.

Fransiskus Borgias, a lay theologian based in West Java said: This is a brave breakthrough as the decision presupposes several extraordinary theological foundations.

He said it is a recognition that Jesus of the Christians is not the same as Isa of Islamic tradition.

Even though it is often said that Isa and Jesus are the same, they are actually different, not only theologically, but also sociologically, he told UCA News.

He said that Jesus was the son of Mary and Joseph in the Bible, and Mary was the daughter of Joachim and Anna and lived towards the first century of the Era of Christ.

But in Islam, Isa is the son of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. So, Jesus was Moses' nephew. Something like that is impossible in Christian and Jewish chronology, he said.

He added that Isa, according to Islam, was a prophet and did not die on the cross.

According to the Gospels and extra-biblical history, Jesus died on the cross and on the third day rose from the dead, he said.

The change is a welcome step, which describes the understanding and experience of Christian faith based on the Bible,  Borgias said. 

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