"Pesparani is not just a singing competition between choirs, but it is a moment when we are called to strengthen our union," said Mgr Suharyo, president of the Bishops’ Conference. In recent history, the island saw violent sectarian clashes between Muslims and Protestants. In a video message, Indonesian President Widodo asked Catholics to "maintain the integrity and harmony of the religious community, in order to achieve true brotherhood among the children of the nation".
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The first edition of the Pesta Paduan Suara Gerejani (Pesparani), the national Catholic sacred music festival (27 October-2 November), started with a Mass, followed by a joyful opening ceremony on Merdeka Square in Ambon, Maluku province. The event has attracted almost 10,000 people, both Catholic and non, from all over the country.
In addition to Mgr Petrus Canisius Mandagi, bishop of Amboina (suffragan Diocese of Makassar in Ambon), several bishops, hundreds of priests, local government representatives and important dignitaries from the capital were also present at the ceremony.
The latter included Mgr Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, archbishop of Jakarta and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI); Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin (first picture, fourth from right); Maluku Governor Said Assagaff; and Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan (first picture, third from right).
Mr Jonan stood in for Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who could not come. Instead, the president sent a short video message, asking Catholics to "maintain the integrity and harmony of the religious community, in order to achieve true brotherhood among the children of the nation".
Minister Jonan, a devout Catholic, expressed the nation’s hope that the 2018 Pesparani will "motivate participants and the residents of Ambon to promote national unity and social harmony".
The choice of location, where Catholics are 4 per cent of the population, represents the will and commitment of the Church to peaceful coexistence among residents.
In recent history, the city and the island of Ambon have been the scene of violent sectarian clashes between Muslims and Protestants.
Even the choice of the first day was not accidental. It comes on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the Sumpah Pemuda (The Youth Pledge), made by young Indonesian nationalists to uphold three ideals: one motherland, one nation and one language.
As KWI president, Mgr Suharyo said that "through the Pesparani, Catholics intend to express their gratitude to the founding fathers and their political heritage".
The archbishop of Jakarta also emphasised the involvement in the organisation of the event of people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
"Pesparani is not just a singing competition between choirs, but it is a moment when we are called to strengthen our union as fellow citizens. This is the moment when we must celebrate and ensure social harmony," concluded the prelate.