What’s in a name? Indonesia gives Jesus a new one

By December 7, 2023

Indonesia (MNN) — December 2023 is the last time Christmas will go by its current name in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

At the request of Indonesian believers, three Christian holidays will get new names in 2024.

“The Indonesian government announced they will stop using the Arabic term for Jesus, ‘Isa Al Masih,’” Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says.

“When they refer to Christian holidays, they will instead use the Indonesian language term ‘Yesus Kristus.’”

(Photo courtesy of Keira Burton/Pexels)

Many believers celebrate the change as a sign of respect. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

Other Christian leaders voice concern, saying, “‘You’re making it very clear that Yesus Kristus is Jesus Christ, not Isa Al Masih. Separating the two could lessen that opportunity for us to have a conversation with Muslims’,” Nettleton says.

Some believers worry that Indonesia could go the way of Malaysia, another Muslim-majority nation, where a 35-year ban forbade non-Muslims from using the Arabic word ‘Allah’ to refer to God.

“[Some] (Indonesian) Christians say, ‘We’ve got to watch this carefully. This is the start of the government mandating what words we can use as Christians,’” Nettleton says.

Only the Lord knows what tomorrow holds. “Pray that there will be peace; that there won’t be violence against our Christian brothers and sisters. There certainly has been [violence] in the past in Indonesia, particularly in the eastern part of the country,” Nettleton says.

“Maybe this is a conversation starter – ‘Hey, the government is changing the words they use, but do you know the person behind the words? Do you know Jesus?’”



Header image is a representative stock photo depicting the Indonesian flag.

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