Jakarta – A joint security team consisting of 8,179 people from the National Police, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the Jakarta administration are preparing to provide security and enforce health protocols in the capital during Christmas and New Year services and celebrations.
This year, churches may accept only a limited number of Christmas congregants to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"[The officers] will secure houses of worship, including more than 1,600 churches in Jakarta," Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Yusri Yunus said on Wednesday, as quoted by kompas.com.
He said the officers would be deployed on Christmas Eve to anticipate any possible security disturbances or breaches of health protocols.
Previously, the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) advised Christians to attend Christmas services virtually.
"The PGI has issued a circular to all churches, ordering Christmas celebrations to go virtual," PGI chairman Gomar Gultom said last Friday.
He added that the circular was issued in response to the danger of COVID-19 infection and urged families to celebrate the holiday at home.
On Nov. 24, the PGI advised Christians to attend virtual services from Nov. 29 to Christmas Day.
Several churches have been preparing to host Christmas events in accordance with health protocols.
The Jakarta Cathedral in Central Jakarta requires people to register online if they wish to attend a Christmas Mass there.
"Anyone who wishes to pray at the cathedral must register online," Jakarta Archdiocese secretary Rev. Adi Prasojo said on Dec. 4, adding that the registration data would be used to make seating arrangements.
"We also ask for them to state their addresses, who they are sitting next to and the seating arrangement," Adi said, noting that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses would be limited to one hour each.
The Jakarta Cathedral will hold two Christmas Eve Masses, scheduled for 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Christmas Eve Mass will also be made available on the Jakarta Cathedral's YouTube channel, Komsos Cathedral Jakarta, starting at 6:30 p.m.
On Christmas Day, Masses will be held at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., with an online service set at 11 a.m.
All offline Masses will be livestreamed on the cathedral's YouTube channel.
Adi said that during each service, the cathedral would limit its occupancy to 20 percent of the building's maximum capacity.
West Jakarta Public Order Agency head Tamo Sijabat said his office had coordinated with churches in West Jakarta to ensure that congregations followed health protocols during in-person Christmas services and limited their occupancy to 50 percent.
The Christian Evangelical Church in Timor (GMIT) has also announced that it will limit the number of attendees at Christmas and New Year services in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).
GMIT synodal head Rev. Merry Kolimon said on Wednesday that prayer services for Christmas and New Year's Eve would have to be modified because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the church's limitation on the number of congregants complied with Religious Affairs Minister Circular No. 23/2020 on guidelines for Christmas celebrations during the pandemic.
If churches held services on Christmas and New Year, he added, they would have to follow strict health protocols that included hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing, as well as limiting occupancy to 50 percent of the church's capacity. He advised pregnant women, children under 12, the elderly, the sick and people with comorbidities to pray at home. (ami/dje)