Perhaps no one ever imagined that the citizens of this country would need a police guard to commune with God; yet, this has now become a reality. Is God being held hostage by worldly threats, or is it the people?
For the past several years, security has been a top priority during religious holidays, and this Christmas is no exception: Police have been deployed to guard churches throughout the country, especially in major cities and conflict areas. In some places, military troops are providing reinforcement.
It is not just Christian holidays; security was also tightened during the recent Muslim holiday of Idul Fitri. In the recent past, there have been times when Muslims could not celebrate their holy day due to prolonged sectarian conflicts.
The presence of security forces at religious events is a nuisance, to say the least, because universal peace, tolerance and acceptance of our brothers and sisters are central to most faiths. We should not take their presence for granted, as doing so would be akin to taking for granted the terrorism that has altered our lives so drastically.
For many Indonesians, the days of joyful and peaceful Christmases are long past. With the 2000 church bombings still reverberating and with the two most wanted bomb-makers on the loose, it is difficult to dispel the apprehension that arises every holiday season. At least 15 Christians were killed in the 2000 bombings across the country and 96 other churchgoers were injured.
Terrorism again struck in 2002 in Bali and 2004 in Jakarta. Foreign governments, including Australia and Britain, have issued travel advisories upon intelligence that militants could be planning another attack ahead of Christmas.
Indonesia used to be a country in which the faithful of different religions could coexist in peace: Religion was no obstacle to friendship and brotherhood here. Sadly, those days fostered by our founding fathers are long gone.
It is thus not surprising that many find incredulous and amazing the modern absurdities that have unfolded in the name of religion. Today, religion tends to be a divisive factor, thanks to its diligent exploitation by unscrupulous politicians for short-term gains.
The status quo of requiring police protection for religious events is a manifestation of our false approach toward religion. Somewhere, somehow, we have erred in our path to embracing the divine here on earth - whether that path be defined through Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam or Protestantism. This has left a spiritual and moral void, which has been filled in the meantime by a form of terror that has found convenient bedfellows with short-sighted politicians.
But religious exploitation, long a part of Indonesian politics, will not go away overnight; hence terrorism, like it or not, is here to stay.
Nevertheless, it is irrational to expect the government to uphold security single-handedly, especially when it is already overwhelmed by an exhaustive agenda brought about by economic and social woes it inherited from the previous, post-Soeharto administrations. Every citizen in their right minds should be contributing to peace and safety - after all, we are their beneficiaries.
To be fair, this Christmas season has not been as bad as in previous years. Some achievements have been made, albeit at a snail's pace. Police have recently discovered a haul of explosives in a number of places and so succeeded in preventing who knows how many bombings - but more challenges lie ahead.
Indonesia has yet to fully recover from its six-year-old crisis - now going on seven - with its accompanying social disturbances. The price paid has been dear, as people have had to learn to live with armed insurgencies, like in Aceh; terrorism, like in Jakarta and Bali; and violence, ethnic and communal conflicts, like those in Poso, Palu and Maluku.
When a country remains in crisis, its people remains in limbo; when a crisis persists, social disturbances ebb and flow.
Sick and tired of this 'purgatory', great expectations have been placed in the two-month-old government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was directly elected by the people with a mandate to get rid of the crisis.
It is not by chance that our founding fathers held aloft 'Belief in God' over and above the five principles in our Constitution - it is by the wisdom of their vision and the virtue of all faiths toward creating a universal brotherhood.
It is our task to work together, as a united Indonesia, against all the odds that appear to haunt the nation upon a hope that we will come out of this suffering stronger than we have ever been.
After all, 'A place for everyone' is the nation's sanctified pledge. Let us all welcome this holiday season with peace, acceptance, common sense and generosity of spirit in embracing our fellows - men and women - without prejudice.