06/08/2018, 16.11
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Ramadan in Indonesia: Catholics share iftar with Muslims

by Mathias Hariyadi

Some 300 Muslim workers ate the meal at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Tegal. Three days ago, a dinner concluded the reopening ceremony of the Church of St Joseph in Jember. The Archdiocese of Jakarta held its own interfaith initiative on 1 June, a national holiday commemorating the birth of Pancasila.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, several Catholic parishes in the country have been involved in initiatives promoting dialogue and pluralism.

The Church of the Sacred Heart in Tegal, Diocese of Purwokerto (Central Java), invited hundreds of Muslims yesterday evening to share an iftar meal at the parish building (pictures 1 and 2). Fr Yohanes Suratman, the parish priest, presided over the evening meal that breaks the Islamic fast.

"About 300 people came for our initiative,” he told AsiaNews, “including 238 sanitation workers and 46 low-paid labourers, like rickshaw drivers, parking attendants and security guards."

Fr Suratman noted that local government officials and members of the Armed Forces were also present at the event, as well as "some key figures from our interfaith forum (FKUB) and the local ulema council (MUI)” and “last but not least, the representatives of the two largest moderate Muslim organisations: Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.”

A few days ago, his parish had organised another iftar for more than 200 children.

Mgr Julianus Kema Sunarka, bishop emeritus of Purwokerto, expressed appreciation for the initiative promoted by the Catholic community in Tegal. In a message on the diocese’s social media, the bishop thanked “the Parish of the Sacred Heart for sharing the ambition of President Joko Widodo to safeguard the philosophical and political platform of the state, Pancasila."

The prelate encouraged other priests in the region to conduct similar activities. Sister Maria Monika Ekawati, superior of the Nuns of Our Lady, noted that such actions "are an excellent response to current social problems and are useful to preserve the country’s national values."

Three days ago, an iftar meal concluded the reopening ceremony of the Church of St Joseph in Jember (East Java). Dr Faida, head of the local district, announced the end of the renovation works (pictures 3 and 4).

Together with Mgr Henricus Pidyarto Gunawan, bishop of Malang, she signed the paper that allows the use of the structure as a place of worship. Like the prelate, she praised the initiative by Catholics who prepared and handed out the meals. "In Jember this is the first time that an iftar is held in a church," she said.

On 1st June, the Archdiocese of Jakarta also organised a dinner in the function hall of Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral.

Before the meal, the parish priest Fr Hani Rudi Hartoko led hundreds of Muslims on a visit of the church, explaining why it is in front of the great Istiqlal mosque.

"The idea came from our first president, Soekarno. He is the father of the Indonesian nationalist spirit: living in harmony, in the context of ethnic and religious diversity," the priest said.

Alissa Wahid, daughter of former President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, also took part in the event. “1st June is a national holiday that commemorates the birth of Pancasila. Coming on the same day, this initiative is a call for tolerance and national solidarity among all Indonesians."

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