CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 July 2019

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No New Year celebrations in Aceh

JAKARTA (UCAN): Aminullah Usman, mayor of Banda Aceh, the provincial capital of Aceh, said on December 18 that letters have been sent out warning people “not to hold parties, set off fireworks, and blow horns” on New Year’s Eve.
 
“These practices are not in accordance with Islamic Shariah law,” he said, adding, “Muslims have their own special celebration, which is the Hijri New Year.” 
 
This year the Hijri New Year fell on September 11.
 
He said that although the ban has existed for the past few years, this year it will be enforced more firmly.
 
“There are no exceptions. Hotels are prohibited from holding any kind of event. For those who violate the policy, we will revoke their permits,” he said.
 
He said the policy is part of an effort to uphold Islamic Shariah values, strengthen the unity of religious peoples and to uphold peace, safety and order.
 
However, Usman said, they would allow religious activities for non-Muslims, including Christians who can hold Masses.
 
“We allow this, but they cannot conduct celebrations, especially in public spaces,” he said.
 
A Catholic woman in Banda Aceh, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they would abide by the directive.
 
“Partying is not the most important part of New Year celebrations. We will celebrate it at home,” she said.
 
Bambang Pramusinto, general manager of the Kyriad Muraya Hotel in Banda Aceh, said they would obey the order.
 
“Regretfully we will not hold any events,” he said.
 
Last year, many guests complained because there were no celebrations at the hotel, but they understood after being told it was a government directive.
 
Since Shariah law was imposed, the government in Aceh has introduced bylaws unique to that part of Indonesia.
 
In 2015, the local government prohibited cafés from serving women after 9.00pm as well as those without a male chaperone.
 
In November, village leaders in Bireuen district banned Wi-Fi at coffee shops over fears that youngsters were being distracted from their studies, daily Islamic prayers and Qu’ran recital sessions.
 
In a report released in early December, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, a prominent religious freedom advocacy group ranked Banda Aceh, Jakarta, and Tanjung Balai in North Sumatra as Indonesia’s most intolerant cities.

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