Mass wedding for 239 couples in East Nusa Tenggara
by Mathias Hariyadi

The event was held under a huge tent in Mena, Timor Island, thanks to local authorities who issued all the marriage certificates at once. Hitherto many couples opted out of registering their union for financial reasons, with the result that their children have no birth certificate.


Jakarta (AsiaNews) – St Filomena Church in Mena saw 239 couples celebrate in style their marriage thanks to the collaboration between the Diocese of Atambua and local authorities in East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur, NTT) province.

Led by Fr Kanis Oki, several priests took part in the Mass organised as part of the Jubilee of Mercy "to reiterate the beauty of marriage”.

Practical reasons brought about the mass wedding, most notably a desire to facilitate the issuance of marriage certificates, a notoriously hard thing to do in Indonesia.

A few months ago, Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa spoke publicly about the importance of marriage and birth certificates, something that many Indonesians fail to grasp.

According to the minister, 85 per cent of all children in NTT, the country’s most Catholic province, do not have a birth certificate. Some 36 million Indonesian children out of a total of 87 million do not have this document.

In NTT, many adults also do not register their marriage because women, according to tradition, are required to provide a dowry (called bellis in the local language) to the groom's family. This is not the case in Java and other provinces.

However, the bellis is a financial burden for many people, and so couples opt out of the official marriage to avoid the payment. Their children however end up without a birth certificate, unable to attend state schools.

To solve the problem, Minister Parawansa contacted religious leaders in the province, which includes the Indonesian side of the island of Timor, Flores Island, and other islands, to seek their cooperation.

"Thanks to a positive dialogue and acts of friendship, our mission is accomplished,” he said.

St Filomena’s pastor, Fr Bowe, said, "We received the full support of the government and dozens of NGOs, local and foreign. Mass weddings were carried out to help newlyweds get the papers required by the State."

Abe Besteas, is one of the grooms. He said that he was filled with joy to share this with other couples. “Thanks to this day, it was not hard to get the papers. The Church and the government helped us."

In Indonesia, red tape and corrupt officials are a major problem. Yesterday, President Joko Widodo cancelled 3,143 useless by-laws.

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