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Indonesia's Eid festival spurs religious tolerance

Poor Christians share the meat of sacrificed animals as Muslims reach out to them

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Indonesia's Eid festival spurs religious tolerance

A bull donated by President Joko Widodo is taken to Istiqlal Mosque in central Jakarta. To celebrate Eid al-Adha, the mosque’s management distributed sacrificial meat to nearby poor people. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com)

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It has been a tradition for 46-year-old Catholic street seller Victor to visit a mosque in Jakarta, capital of majority-Muslim Indonesia, during celebration of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic 'Festival of Sacrifice'.

Eid marks the occasion when Allah asked the Prophet Abraham in a dream to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, to prove his devotion. When Abraham could not be dissuaded by the Devil from doing so, Allah said he could kill a lamb instead.

Muslims, who comprise about 85 percent of Indonesia's 260 million population, celebrate Eid by feasting on sacrificed animals, usually goats, sheep or cows, but there is also an emphasis on distribution to the poor.

On Aug. 22, Victor (not his real name) visited the Cut Meutia Mosque to receive about two kilograms of beef from a sacrificed animal.

"For me, sacrificial meat has a special meaning," he said.

It was not only for his family, but also for poor Muslim neighbors who seldom had a chance to eat it, said the father of two who lives in a slum area and sells bottled water as well as cigarettes.

"Eid means sharing with others," Victor said.

"So, I feel obliged to share sacrificial meat, that I get for free from Muslims, with those in need."

Togar Sianipar, a 56-year-old Protestant driver of a bajaj traditional three-wheeled taxi who hails from northern Jakarta, received sacrificial meat from his Muslim neighbours during Eid.

"I get it from them every year," he said, adding that the practice enhances religious tolerance and understanding.

Saiful, a 47-year-old Muslim small stall owner, says his humble financial situation does not pose an obstacle to him showing kindness to non-Muslims.

"In Islam, sharing sacrificial meat with neighbours is a form of our obedience to Allah," he said.

"It is also to show our love to others."

Saiful added that he would be sharing the beef he was given by a local mosque.

A system of issuing coupons for the obtaining of meat from sacrificed animals was abandoned after a person was by accident crushed to death in a crowd outside the mosque five years ago.

This year, the mosque — which is located opposite to Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church — slaughtered 26 cows and 17 goats.

Sacrificial meat is intended for people in need, regardless of their faith.

"If there are any poor Christians in a neighbourhood, Muslims must share sacrificial meat with them," said Anwar Abbas, Secretary General of the Indonesian Ulema Council.

"If I don't pay attention to poor people, or even atheists, I would be labelled as a person with no faith."

"It has been done since a long time ago and become a tradition to create a true brotherhood," said Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, an activist priest who is former executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops' Commission for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs.

The Festival of Sacrifice was marked in a spirit of togetherness, he added.


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