12/28/2012, 00.00
INDONESIA

Central Java, young Muslims defy the Islamists and participate in Christmas mass

Mathias Hariyadi
The young people are students of a local Islamic university. They justified their presence as a gesture of friendship and brotherhood towards Catholics. The gathering took place in the church of St. Xavier in Kebon Dalem, in the province of Semarang. In the region several Muslim imams had called for a boycott of the Christmas Masses.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Regardless of the threats of radical Islamic leaders against the Christians, 12 Muslim youths of Semarang Islamc State University WaliSongo attended Christmas Mass in the Catholic Church of St. Francis Xavier Kebon Dalem (Semarang, Central Java). Fr. Aloysius Budi Purnomo said that they came of their own accord, risking their own lives. Before entering the church, the boys asked permission to attend mass, justifying the visit as a gesture of brotherhood with their Christian neighbors during the Christmas period.

"In the beginning - says the priest - I was not impressed. At Christmas many Muslims come to our services but only to ensure safety, showing no interest towards us. But when I met these young students I was convinced about their true intentions" . The pastor stresses that the faithful applauded the 12 "guests" of exception, who have followed the mass from beginning to end in silence and with great attention.

Muskit, one of 12 students gave the priest a small message read at the end of the Mass, in which he confesses the reasons that led him to attend the function. "I am very happy to have lived this experience with my fellow Catholics," said the young man. "As a Muslim, I am resolved to strengthen the spirit of tolerance and coexistence with Christians." According to Muskit, Indonesia is a multi-religious society and this spirit must be preserved. "I had the chance - he added - to attend a celebration where the message of peace of Christmas is widespread and shared."

Despite the risk of attacks by Islamic extremist groups, thousands of Catholics flocked to churches to attend Christmas mass. AsiaNews sources point out that in all the parishes turnout was higher than expected. As every year, the Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest moderate Muslim organization in Indonesia, provided more than 20 thousand people as security guards in front of the Christian religious buildings.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world and while the constitutional principles ensure religious freedom, it is increasingly the scene of attacks and violence against minorities, be they Christian, Ahmadi Muslims or other faiths. In the province of Aceh is governed by Islamic law, the Sharia - the only one in the archipelago -, and in many other areas the Muslim religion's influence in people's lives is becoming more radical and extreme. In addition, some rules such as building permits - the infamous IMB - are exploited to prevent the building or close down Christian places of worship, as is the case for some time in the regency of Bogor, West Java, for the faithful of the Yasmin Church .

 

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