The War on Christmas continues to rage on, most recently in Indonesia, where an Islamist group forced a church to end their Christmas celebrations.
According to the Jakarta Globe, a Christmas celebration led by preacher Stephen Tong at Sabuga Building in Bandung, West Java, on Tuesday was forced to end after a Muslim hardliner group, identifying as Defenders of Ahlus Sunnah (PAS), claimed the religious service should be held in a church, not a public building.
While the Christians practiced their Christmas carols, the Muslim group reportedly barged in the building and ordered them to leave, carrying a banner reading: "West Java Muslim communist asks the celebration be moved to a designated space, not a public space."
Before leaving the premises, the Christians reportedly sang the Christmas carol "Oh Holy Night" and prayed. However, while they complied with the Muslims' demands, a source within the church committee said that all permit requirements to hold the services had been fulfilled, including submitting notifications to the government and police.
Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil apologized for the disruption via his official Instagram account: "I apologized, physically I cannot attend all locations. I have instructed officials to secure the event by phone."
He indicated authorities were aware of the event prior to the day, adding: "I have coordinated, continue the activities as your religious rights are protected by the state."
World Watch Monitor notes that the incident comes as Christians face increasing harassment in the Muslim-majority country, where believers constitute just 10% of the population.
Yesterday also saw the start of the trial of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as ‘Ahok', who is accused of blasphemy after an apparently edited video of him appearing to quote the Qur'an went viral. Mr. Basuki has denied the charges, and said his comments were aimed at politicians "incorrectly" using the Koranic verse against him, as reported by The Gospel Herald, and insisted his alleged remarks were not directed at the verse itself.
Nevertheless, there was widespread outrage after an edited video of his speech went viral in November. At the time, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in November in front of the State Palace (Istana Negara) to protest against the Chinese-born governor. According to the BBC, in the streets outside court during the opening of the trial this week, hundreds of demonstrators, mostly men, gathered to protest. "Jail Governor Ahok now," they chanted. They punched their fists in the air and shouted: "We must defend Islam from those who insult the holy book."