Greeting “Merry Christmas” to Christians from Moslem people in Indonesia is debatable. Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) has long prohibited Moslem for doing such actions. The reasons behind such policy are indeed the private sphere of Moslem which I cannot explain at the very best way. In regard of the reason, I prefer readers to ask individually to MUI about the policy. What I would like to underline in this article is about emphasizing the importance for using our reason: the best gift endowed from Our Creator. Furthermore, I would also like to talk about the priority objection above the greeting case.
“Merry Christmas” is a greeting. Moreover, it is only a phrase comprised of two words. It actually has no mean other than saying that “Merry Christmas.” Thus, why should it become a problem? As I have said before, it is not my objective to define and explain specifically the reasons. I would like rather to take account of it from the point of view of the Christians.
As I have also said that “Merry Christmas” is about a phrase. Thus, why should it be a source of debate? Why do not people also debate about saying “Good Morning” or anything else? Does it because it has something to do with religion then it should be taken seriously? From my point of view, there is nothing special in regard of the greeting. I know that I would feel that I am respected if I have been given such greeting. But, above all, I do not mind if my Moslem friends do not give the greeting because of their faith. Does life consist of choices and people are free to make their choice? If I am the defender of pluralism, why should I insist Moslem people to say “Merry Christmas” to me? Were it the case, I would become the very paradox of pluralist defender. Thus, I thought that it is actually not worth to debate about the greeting. I do not mind if I am not greeted but what I would take the opposite standpoint in regard of another case related to this.
It is true that people are free to make a choice regarding several issues. But, it would be very regrettable if people make choice arbitrarily and do not use their reason properly. In this case, they do not make proper consideration why they choose something. Rather, they have chosen something blindly. Why should then people choose something using their reason? It is because reason is the best gift ever endowed by God. If people never use their reason in considering their decision, it will be very useless the mind bestowed to them. Thus, in using reason and mind in considering their choices, people are really free; they are not bound by several dogmas that will prevent them from critical thinking. Moreover, by using them properly, people are really human beings and not the slave of others.
If then Moslem people have deliberated properly to not give a “Merry Christmas” greeting for their Christians’ friends, I thought it would be very well: we should respect their choice as free people. But, it would be very regrettable if they just follow the dogma without have to play their ability to critically think about everything. The later case that should be debatable rather than discussing about should I give my Christian friend a “Merry Christmas” greeting because it will depend upon their reason.
The priority objection
It is clear then from my point of view that “Merry Christmas” greeting is not that important if the people refuse for doing so have deliberated and choose not to do the action, not just by following the dogmatic phrase. Still overwhelmed by the Christmas atmosphere, the priority objection of the Day is not about greeting but about intolerance case that is still taking place in the country. This is the true problem that has to be faced by Indonesians and not just debate about “Merry Christmas” greeting.
In 2012 Christmas Day, GKI Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia people still faced intolerance in regard of their worship building. They still cannot afford the permit to construct the worship-building. As has been reported from several activists, they then choose to conduct the mass in front of the Presidential Palace but as can be easily predicted, there is no conscience showed by the President or the Vice President in regard of the case. The question is: if President can give direct command in regard of KPK case, why cannot he give the same in regard of the intolerance case?
From my point of view, what does make the greeting case and intolerance case different is when the former is located in the private sphere, the later is actually located in public sphere. Tolerance is not about private sphere because it has something to do with giving others the chance to conduct their religious practices. It is about civic goodness rather than promoting individual goodness.
I will be very disturbed then if I know that there is a person who has consciously decided not to say “Merry Christmas” but on the other hand he/she does not promote tolerance and keep silence in regard of the GKI Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia case. In the case, I would rather say that such people have not used their mind properly because when they have achieved the degree of consciousness where diversity is realized, they should actually promote tolerance in order to maintain the diversity.
From this short essay, what I would like to say is absolutely clear. It is not the greeting that Indonesia actually needs. This country, endowed with people with many diverse backgrounds, has a bigger issue rather than a greeting: intolerance case that always brings our brothers and sisters live in a horrible way of being assaulted by others. This is actually the value that we should promote in this Christmas Day, regardless of your view about giving the greeting if you have chosen it rationally.