A choir competition called Pesparani was held in Palembang. Mgr Sudarso chose a Muslim leader to head the organising committee. For the archbishop, this helps “true brotherhood among the people”.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – More than 2,000 Catholics and people from various interfaith groups took part in a festival of Catholic sacred music held in the Diocese of Palembang, South Sumatra province (Sumsel).
The event was organised by a senior official of the country’s most important Islamic organisation and once again bears witness to the principle of “unity in diversity” that characterises Indonesian society and the commitment of the local Church to intercommunal harmony.
Known as Church Choir Festival (Pesta Paduan Suara Gerejani, Pesparani), the musical competition took place between 26 and 28 October at the Jakabaring Sport City in the provincial capital of Palembang. Choirs from 21 local parishes and 48 Catholic schools competed against each other.
The first festival in South Sumatra repeated the success of the one held last year in Ambon, Maluku Islands. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gave the thumbs up to the initiative of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference on Indonesia (KWI), the first of its kind.
What makes the Palembang edition special is the decision of the archbishop, Mgr Aloysius Sudarso, to pick a Muslim leader to head the organising committee: Kiai Hajj Amiruddin Nahrawi, also known as Cak Amir, the local leader of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
With some 90 million members, NU is the largest moderate Islamic organisation in Indonesia and the world.
Last week, Mgr Sudarso explained his choice saying that it is an invitation to develop good and deep relations between religious communities. “It shows Catholic good will towards true brotherhood among the people of South Sumatra," he said a few days before the event.
“The arguments that led the archbishop to involve me in this wonderful event are very sensible,” said Cak Amir during a public meeting with Sriwijaya Military Command leaders.
“Although I am Muslim, during the sectarian violence that shook the country (and Palemnag) in May 1998, I helped local Catholics. As a Nahdlatul Ulama leader, I sent members of Banser (NU’s paramilitary wing) to protect public buildings, and those of their community.”
Pesparani’s opening ceremony was enlivened by various groups engaged in dialogue. In addition to Cak Amir, the event saw the presence of Provincial Governor Herman Deru.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Mgr Sudarso said that “The spirit of openness and the will to work with people from different ethno-religious groups must be brought to our parishes, schools and communities".
On the side-lines of the festival, Hendro Setiawan, one of the key figures in the organising committee, told AsiaNews that “singing and reciting the psalms at Pesparani gave Catholics in South Sumatra an excellent opportunity to express in public their faith in a friendly and tolerant environment. This public initiative is truly exceptional, as our fellow Indonesian Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians and others showed great enthusiasm.”
(Kristiana Rinawati, of the Social Communication Commission of the Archdiocese of Palembang contributed to this article)