Updated: June 17, 2016 10:41 AM GMT
A Muslim student performs a Sufi dance while Father Purnomo sings to entertain participants at the interfaith breakfast (Photo by Bernard D. Elwin)
A traditional interfaith Ramadan breakfast organized by the Interreligious Commission of Semarang Archdiocese in Central Java went ahead June 16, despite resistance from several Muslim organizations, including the Islamic Defenders Front extremist group.
The annual event was originally scheduled to be held at Semarang’s Christ the King Church in Ungaran. But the Muslim groups, complained that Islamic fast breaking should not be carried out on a Christian property.
After talks with radical group, local police and government officials, the event was moved to a neutral venue in Pudak Payung,Semarang district,
Hundreds of people from Christian, Muslim and other communities attended, including Shinta Nuriyah Wahid, wife of Indonesia’s fourth president, Abdurrahman Wahid.
She is known for encouraging religious harmony and is a pioneer of interfaith activities in predominantly Muslim Indonesia.
Father Aloysius Budi Purnomo, head of the diocesan interfaith commission, regretted the protests from the Muslim groups.
"In recent years, the event has taken place peacefully in a variety of venues including mosques, churches, and temples," he said.
"I can understand the sentiments of our [Islamic Defenders Front] friends, and, since this is an interfaith event, we have to maintain harmony."
Shinta Nuryiah Wahid (third left) Father Budi Purnomo (second right), and Semarang mayor Hendrar Prihadi (second left) enjoy breakfast together on June 16 (Photo by Bernard D. Elwin)
Hasyim Asy'ari, coordinator of the Central Java youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest independent Islamic organization, defended the Catholic Church for hosting the event.
"Muslims must understand that the interfaith breakfast was not a church initiative," he said. "But the initiative of our beloved Shinta Nuriyah Wahid."
"The decision on the venue and who will participate came from her," he said.
"Father Purnomo and the Catholics were only following her instructions."
"I have been doing this since 2000 when I became the First Lady," said Wahid, during an address at the event. "Because we live in a country with different ethnic, religious, and language backgrounds."
Semarang mayor, Hendrar Prihadi, who also attended the event, said that despite resistance from hardliners, harmony was maintained.
"This is proof that the people here value tolerance," he said.
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