“Christians are called to remain steadfast in the faith in the midst of all the struggles and difficulties of life, since God brings light in the darkness and gives hope in the midst of despair”: this is what the Catholic Bishops and Protestant leaders of Indonesia say in their joint Christmas Message, reported Fides News Agency.
With the beginning of the Advent period, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI) and the Conference of the Indonesian United Protestant Churches (PGI) have chosen to develop and disseminate a joint reflection for all the baptized in Indonesia. In full ecumenical spirit, the Bishops invite all Christians in Indonesia to reflect on the passage from the Gospel of Matthew “And they shall name him Emmanuel” (Mt 1:23).
The Message, released on December 1, indicates that humanity around the world is experiencing the tremendous horror of the Covid-19 pandemic. Christian leaders recognize that this pandemic has destroyed many aspects of human life: many families are in pain and mourning because they have lost loved ones; many people have lost their jobs, students are forced to study online from home, thus losing an opportunity for social life.
The faithful – notes the text – are saddened by the fact that they cannot go to church to pray and receive the sacraments. Furthermore, the Bishops point out, the number of crimes has also increased. The general situation in Indonesia has generated a resumption of identity pressures, which have flourished in society, causing incitement to hatred, intolerance, radicalism, and division between social groups.
In this context, notes the text “humanity is physically and psychologically fragile”. “We are easily trapped by the heavy burdens of life, fragile because of the greed that leads us to corruption and injustice. The virus confirms that men, regardless of social status, religion and education, need each other”. In this storm “faith in God as a source of help”, say the Bishops.
“As Christians, we have suffered like others, but we can live our suffering with peace and in the confidence that God walks with us, to face suffering together. God will never abandon us in fear: the power of faith and love allows a Christian to face difficult situations in peace and faith”, observes the message.
By inviting all Christians to “welcome and feel the presence of Jesus as true light in the darkness”, the text affirms: “In Jesus, Emmanuel, God is truly present in our midst. Our fragility is precious in the eyes of God. The name Emmanuel, God-with-us, precisely indicates that God is among us and works to renew us. This presence allows Christians to face difficulties in life”. The text invites us to discover the presence of God in the history of his people, from the Old Testament and then in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace.
“Encouraged by this certainty and by the power of love, all Christians must cultivate solidarity with the marginalized and the suffering. The presence of God must remind us that every man is made in the image of God and that this constitutes the inalienable dignity of humanity. Therefore, human life is precious and we must take care and protect it”, underlines the message, inviting us to “imitate Jesus by doing good according to our mission”.
In this particular period, the Bishops ask Christians to “stay away from hate speech, fake news, intolerance, and criminal acts”, urging them to “bear witness to God’s compassion and generosity in the midst of this pandemic in order to help others.
Indonesia is a country with 270 million inhabitants, 230 million of whom are Muslims. There are 24 million Christians in the country, and among them 7 million are Catholics.