Indonesian city rejects demand to cancel Lunar celebration

Bogor mayor says hard-line Muslim call for Cap Go Meh boycott goes against principles of diversity
Indonesian city rejects demand to cancel Lunar celebration

This photo taken on March 2, 2018 shows participants taking part in the Cap Go Meh Festival, also known as Yuanxiao festival in China, which marks the 15th and final day of the Lunar New Year celebrations in Singkawang, in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province. (Photo by Jessica Helena Wuysang/AFP)

Local authorities in the Indonesian city of Bogor have rejected calls from a hard-line group to ban celebrations marking the end Chinese New Year, saying the demand goes against the country’s stance on religious tolerance.

The rejection was in response to a demand sent by the Bogor Muslim Forum last week, which has since gone viral on social media.

The group issued a circular rejecting all events marking Chinese New Year and demanded that local authorities stop ordering Muslim civil servants to attend a street festival held in the West Java city on Cap Go Meh — the last day of Chinese New Year celebrations.

Bogor mayor, Bima Arya Sugiarto, rejected the demand at a meeting with local religious leaders that included Father Mikail Endro Susanto from Bogor Diocese on Jan. 28.

The mayor said the Cap Go Meh celebration was one of the most important events on the city’s tourism calendar and is annually celebrated as part of the Bogor Street Festival.

“We think it important to inform the public of the Bogor administration’s stance on this. It is an important point of togetherness and diversity,” news portal Kompas.com quoted him as saying.

He said the Bogor Street Festival cannot be singled out this way as it highlights cultural heritage and is usually opened with interfaith prayers.

Father Susanto, head of Bogor Diocese’s Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, accused the Bogor Muslim Forum of trying to undermine religious tolerance in the city.

“Who are they? They speak on behalf of Muslims. But it seems that they are hardliners who want to destroy religious tolerance and harmony in this city,” he told ucanews.com.

“We have to fight against such groups,” he said, adding that the local Catholic Church lends its full support to Cap Go Meh celebrations in the city.

Muhammad Mustofa Abdullah, head of the Bogor chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the national Muslim clerical body, also dismissed the demand, calling it “hate speech.”     

Andri Harsono from the Bogor chapter of the Council for Confucian Religion in Indonesia, and one of the Cap Go Meh celebration organizers expressed surprise at the Muslim group’s demand.

“We’ve never caused problems, particularly among Muslims. In fact, many people are enthusiastic about the celebration,” he told ucanews.com.

“It is a cultural festival, rather than a religious one. If we, Confucians, want to hold a religious festival, we do so in our places of worship.”

Sign up to receive UCAN Daily Full Bulletin
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
© Copyright 2019, UCANews.com All rights reserved
© Copyright 2019, Union of Catholic Asian News Limited. All rights reserved
Expect for any fair dealing permitted under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance.
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior permission.