Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Tens of millions of people celebrated the feast of Eid al-Fitr today in the world's most populous Muslim nation marking the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer. In view of the possibility of fresh new attacks on Buddhist temples and Christian churches and buildings, the authorities have beefed up security measures. Meanwhile, throughout the week, a mass exodus has been underway. Travelling for hours and days by car, plane or crowded boat, people have left the main cities to return their place of origin to be reunited with their family, this in a country with more than 17,000 islands.
During the month-long celebration, the risk of attacks by Islamic extremist groups tends to rise. Moved by resentment caused by anti-Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, these groups have threatened to strike at Indonesia's Buddhist minority this year. Hence, police have been deployed permanently around temples and pagodas, especially around the temple complex of Borobudur in Central Jakarta, where the number of agents has been doubled.
Overall, more than 140,000 police agents have been deployed across the country to patrol the streets and sensitive buildings. Experts warn in fact against the great risk of new attacks.
Early in the morning today, accompanied by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono took part in a prayer vigil at the Istiqlal Mosque in the presence of hundreds of thousands of the faithful.
In view of the situation, Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo tried to defuse the tensions. Instead of receiving relatives and friends at his official residence (in accordance with tradition), he visited some of the most difficult districts in the capital. Addressing residents, he apologised for errors he might have made in his work, extending to everyone his "best wishes" and "a happy Idul Fitri".
Traditionally, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated with visits to family and friends, special dinners and acts of charity. In many places, lunches and banquets are organised for the poor.
The festivity is also an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to meet and exchange greetings.
The end of the month of fasting and purification depends on the position of the moon, which varies from country to country. In the Persian Gulf, most nations follow Saudi Arabia, home to the two holiest cities of Islam, Makkah and Madinah, to set the beginning of the Eid festival.
Characterised by several days of festivities, Eid al-Fitr highlights the purification achieved during a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.