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Indonesian Catholics help poorest Muslims celebrate Eid

The Sant'Egidio community has welcomed hundreds of Muslims each year since its first breakfast event in 1996
Indonesian Catholics help poorest Muslims celebrate Eid

Muslim children receive parcels from Catholic volunteers after the Eid al-Fitr breakfast at St. Maria Elementary School in Jakarta, Jun 19, 2017 (ucanews.com photo)

Published: June 23, 2017 08:39 AM GMT
Updated: June 23, 2017 09:17 AM GMT

Ahmad Kodir, 54, a Muslim rickshaw driver in Sunter, North Jakarta, first attended an interfaith Eid al-Fitr breakfast event in 2010. Despite criticism and negative pressure he receives from some Muslims over the event hosted by Christians, Kodir returns every year to pray, meet new people and make friends.

"We, the poor, don't have any issues about being helped by another religion. My family and I are still Muslims and this helps us to become better Muslims," said the father of four.

The Catholic lay community of Sant'Egidio, started the breakfast event in 1996, providing a place for marginalized people like Kodir to practice the important tradition during the holy month of Ramadan.

This year, the breakfast was held on June 18 at St. Maria Secondary School, in anticipation of Eid al-Fitr, the joyous festival that will begin in the evening of June 25. The event was filled with songs, games, a Ramadan reflection and food. Muslims from some of the poorest parts of the community attended, including many who make ends meet by scavenging, as pedicab drivers, shoe polishers or parking attendants.

The Sant'Egidio community, arrived in Indonesia in 1990, now has 16 chapters across the country and some 600 members. It's headquarters in Rome, Italy, were established in 1968. In keeping with its motto, "friendship with the poor," Sant'Egidio offers a school for peace, breakfast and Christmas lunch for the poor, as well as support services to the elderly, prisoners and homeless.

Delia Ety, 37, who makes her living by scavenging in Kota, West Jakarta, attended the event with three family members. "I was grateful to receive three gift parcels and want to say thank you to the community," she told ucanews.com. She added the Sant'Egidio members sometimes visit her family in Kota, to comfort them and bring food.

Ustadz Ahmad Rosyadi, from an Islamic boarding school in Jagakarsa, South Jakarta, led a religious ceremony at the event. He called on their Muslim friends to do good deeds, and respect each other and other religions. Radicalism happens, he said, because some people on the fringes of society mistakenly interpret the Quran. So "the younger generation needs to study the Quran or Hadith well."

"We shouldn't only follow teachings found through Google, YouTube and social media. We must study from good ulemas [scholars] who don't preach radicalism," he told ucanews.com.


Volunteers from the community of Sant'Egidio provide poor Muslims with breakfast and a cheery welcome.


Petrus Hironimus Wirsun, a coordinator of the event, said the community's presence helps to create friendships for poor Muslims. "Our aim is to proclaim the Gospel through religious service but, here, we don't do it through preaching Christianity," he said.

Eveline Winarko, a community coordinator said the service welcomes 400 street people on Fridays and Sundays each week by providing some food and talking with them. Eighty-five students attend Sekolah Damai, the school for peace. The students are taught about peace, solidarity, respect for other people and their background.

Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta praised the community for its pioneering efforts and contribution to helping the poor. "The community involves thousands of volunteers and is a wonderful platform on which to spread the 'compassion virus,'" the archbishop told ucanews.com. Their work helps to raise the dignity of those whose fate is less fortunate.

Sunday Masses postponed for Muslims to Eid prayer

The largest mosque in Southeast Asia, Istiqlal Mosque, is located just opposite the Jakarta Cathedral. Every Ramadan, crowds flock to the mosque to participate in Eid al Fitr prayers. Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta told ucanews.com, June 19, the church supports its neighbors every year by providing car parking access to its compound. "As the Islamic festival falls on a Sunday this year, June 25, church Masses will be postponed," he said.

The policy is based on Jakarta Archdiocese's recent pastoral letter which emphasizes the church's mission to respect diversity and other religions. Jesuit Father Romo Hani Rudi, parish priest of the St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, said his parish "wants to realize tolerance to our Muslim brothers and sisters."

Congregation members and local officials alike are vocal in their support for the policy. Indonesian Ulema Council official, Amidan, said he welcomes the policy while parishioner Paulus Darmawan said he sees it as a "model of tolerance for Indonesia."

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