Christians in Indonesia are taking few chances this Christmas. As the choirs prep and evangelical rappers rehearse their hip-hop gospel numbers, church leaders are digging bomb pits and coordinating security with local police and the military.

In Jakarta, larger churches have highly visible perimeter security systems, including metal detectors and roadblocks that police and private security will be manning throughout Christmas weekend. Indonesia's government urged churches in rural areas to dig holes in which to place any suspicious objects that might be improvised explosives.

Many Indonesians anticipated more year-end violence because of worsening economic conditions, political unrest, and the strength of militant Islam. This year has seen renewed violence targeting Christians. In late October, on the island of Sulawesi in western Indonesia, Muslim militants beheaded three Christian girls on their way to a Christian school. In early December, also in Sulawesi, a suspected Muslim militant burned down one church.

Representatives of the government met with Muslim fundamentalists to ask them to focus their Christmas weekend demonstrations on things like the economy and to leave out sectarian attacks on Christians who tend to be economically more successful. Local papers just announced that there were millions more unemployed, and the poverty rate has zoomed upward in recent months.

This fall, police announced that they had launched a nationwide security operation "Candle Operation 2005" with 47,750 officers to ensure peaceful Christmas and New Year celebrations. Some moderate Muslim youth will volunteer guard duty at churches over Christmas, according to media reports.

Open Doors reports that more than 600 churches have been destroyed ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.