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Indonesia

Indonesian villagers take dim view of neon Christmas sign

Protesting Muslims force museum to take down sign, saying it insulted Islam

Indonesian villagers take dim view of neon Christmas sign

Villagers in Gondomanan subdistrict of Indonesia's Yogyakarta province were offended when a museum wished people a Happy Christmas with a neon sign (Photo: Unsplash)  

An Indonesian rights group has accused a Javanese cultural museum in Yogyakarta province of bowing to pressure by taking down Christmas decorations following protests by Muslim villagers.

Sonobudoyo Museum in the village of Kauman in Gondomanan subdistrict had put up a colorful neon sign wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas 2020 and Happy New Year 2021" over its main entrance on Oct. 28.

The sign prompted villagers to mount a protest at the museum, forcing staff there to take it down.

On Oct. 29, the museum received a written complaint from villagers who said the sign was an insult to Muslims and “an intolerant act.”

The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace said in a written statement received by UCA News on Oct. 31 that the museum’s decision to take down the Christmas greeting set a bad precedent.
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“Sonobudoyo Museum is a state-owned museum, so it did nothing wrong by displaying a greetings sign for an Indonesian religious festival, including Christmas Day,” said Halili, the group’s director of research.

The incident illustrated growing conservatism and expressions of intolerance in Indonesia, he said. “It is illogical that perpetrators brand others as intolerant. They are playing the victim, which has become a trend among intolerant groups.”

Halili referred to Muslims protesting against the building of Christian churches despite them having building permits granted by local authorities.

He pointed to a recent case affecting the Indonesian Baptist Church (GBI) in Central Java’s Pedurungan subdistrict.

In March, local people demanded that a church under construction be stopped by falsely claiming that the congregation forged documents needed for a building permit.

According to the Semarang Legal Aid Institute, officials from the Public Order Agency halted construction of the church even though the Baptists had a legal permit

Sonobudoyo Museum chief Setyawan Sahli said a Christmas greetings sign is put up each year but this was the first time a neon one had been put up, adding he would write a letter of apology to the villagers.

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