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Peace on Earth, Peace in Bali

Indonesia's 2004 Christmas Celebrations Pass without Major Incident.

(12/26/2004) Churches across Bali and the rest of Indonesia held traditional Christmas services this year under conditions of strict security, allowing the highest holy days on the Christian calendar to pass without major incident.

While past Christmases have seen attacks launched on churches on the island of Java and other outlaying areas of Indonesia, this year's celebration was marked by a fierce determination by the Government and the Nation's citizens that Indonesia would once again be known as a society famous for its mutual respect and religious tolerance. This renewed commitment was perhaps best demonstrated in churches in Jakarta and elsewhere where young men representing some of the nation's leading Islamic organizations, such the Muhammadiyah, Pemuda Madjid and Nahdlatul Ulama, stood shoulder to shoulder with police outside places of worship guaranteeing their Christian neighbors could conduct Christmas services unmolested. Similarly in Bali, pacalang - traditional Hindu religious constables usually deployed only at Hindu temple festivals, stood guard outside the island's churches together with Bali's police, welcoming Christians to worship without fear.

Such demonstrative acts of mutual concern and solidarity did not go unnoticed. The Archbishop of Jakarta, Monsignor Julius Kardinal Darmaatmadja, commented in his midnight mass sermon, "on behalf of Indonesia's Catholics, I express deep thanks to all who are involved in protecting and ensuring that Christmas celebrations can proceed smoothly and peacefully."

At Denpasar's Catholic cathedral and other Christian churches a heavy police and military presence was very much in evidence, with all vehicles and worshippers undergoing security screenings before being allowed to enter into church premises.