01/08/2016, 00.00
INDONESIA

Catholics, Protestants and Confucians join Muslims in Jakarta to say ‘no to extremism’

by Mathias Hariyadi
The country's largest Islamic movement is organising an interfaith gathering for 17January. Some 10,000 people are expected. "With this mass rally we want to bring the message that diversity should be the strength of the nation. We have to show that peaceful coexistence is possible,” said a Bishops’ Conference official. For a Muslim leader, the goal is to promote “in a predominantly Muslim Indonesia moderate ideas that embrace religious tolerance.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Islamic group, is organising a mass rally in the capital for 17 January as a way to fight religious extremism and terrorism, as well as promote pluralism as the true foundation of Indonesian society.

NU will be joined by 13 other Islamic organisations, as well as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia, KWI), various Protestant churches and the Supreme Council for the Confucian Religion in Indonesia (Majelis Tinggi Agama Konghucu Indonesia, MATAKIN).

At least 10,000 people are expected in Lapangan Banteng, a historic square in the Indonesian capital, overlooked by both the city’s Catholic Cathedral and Grand Mosque.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Guido Suprapto, KWI secretary for the laity, said, "We will participate in the event for sure. With this mass rally, we want to bring the message that diversity should be the strength of the nation. We have to show that peaceful coexistence is possible."

For this purpose, Fr Samuel Pangestu, vicar general of the archdiocese of Jakarta, had a large number of leaflets printed and distributed to the city’s Catholics (pictured).

For his part, Marsyudi Syuhud, NU president and rally organiser, said, "We were taught two words: tasanuf, which means tolerance, and tawasuft, which refers to being moderate people. These two words represent the core spirit of being a good Muslim in society.”

Hence, he explained, “From a moral perspective, NU has to defend the nation's political and philosophical foundation, namely Unity in Diversity (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika).”

The concept of Islam Nusantara (the archipelago of Islam) underscores what NU is all about, Marsyudi said. It means "promoting in a predominantly Muslim Indonesia moderate ideas that embrace religious tolerance. Our goal is clear: uniting in brotherhood all of the nation’s factions."

The notion of Islam Nusantara was first introduced last year at NU’s 33rd congress. For Marsyudi, this entails “fighting the perception that Islam is not a peaceful religion because of Shia and Sunnis fighting each other. This is even more important than our relations with other religions Like Hinduism and Buddhism."

At the same time, NU wants to counter any possible infiltration of the Islamic State (IS) group in Indonesia, Marsyudi said.

"There is a clear and present danger. We have seen some [Indonesians] dare to hang the IS flag in a traffic roundabout. We have people who go and fight in Syria and then come back, and the government does nothing. This convinces people that this kind of Arab Spring will soon arrive in Indonesia."

According to Indonesia’s National Anti-Terrorism Agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terorisme, BNPT), 149 Indonesian citizens have returned from Syria.

Other government sources say that 800 people left for Indonesia to join IS, 284 of whom have been identified. At least, 52 have died.

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