Christians of Brunei: Thank you for reminding us about the true meaning of Christmas!
In the modern West (and, certainly in the UK and Ireland), practising Christians celebrate Christmas, almost without exception, as they please, especially with different Christmas traditions, touching on almost every aspect of daily life.
But, imagine if those Christmas celebrations and traditions were banned...accompanied by the threat of jail-time!
Well, this Christmas, the Christians of Brunei faced up to five years in prison for celebrating Christmas… but they just carried on anyway!
The leader of Brunei has said anyone celebrating Christmas, including sending cards and putting up trees, could face up to five years in prison.
While Christians are allowed to celebrate the holiday within their own communities, they must not disclose their plans to the nation’s Muslims. "These enforcement measures are… intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community," said the Ministry of Religious Affairs in a statement.
Banned activities include putting up Christmas trees, singing religious songs (Christmas carols), and sending Christmas greetings. Shopping complexes and other businesses in the Sultanate were told to remove decorations including Christmas trees, banners and Santa Claus figures from their premises.
Fortunately, Christians were able to attend Church services uninterrupted, reported the head of the Catholic Church in Brunei, Bishop Cornelius Sim. And, the Reverend Johnny Chin of St. Andrews Anglican Church in Brunei said that the relations between Christian and Muslims in the country continue to be positive, and that the ban of public displays of the festival have not diluted the true meaning of Christmas to Christians in Brunei.
Reverend Chin said: "I guess with regards to Christmas, we have reminded ourselves to remain focused on how Christmas is not just about the music, the decorations and the Santa hats – which have been emphasised – but that has never been what Christmas is about anyway."
As Christmas is a season, and not just one day, please sign this note of encouragement to the Christians of Brunei, to thank them for keeping their faith, this Christmastide, in spite of the grinch-like behaviour of their political leader and threats of jail-time.
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Christians of Brunei: Thank you for keeping the faith, even under threat of jail