Seminary Closes, Catholics Observe Hindu Customs During Nyepi

2006-04-04 00:00:00

A minor seminary in a predominately Catholic village on the island of Bali recently closed for three days to show respect for the local Hindu community´s observance of Nyepi, the Day of Silence.

Nyepi, a national holiday in Indonesia, is based on the Cakaic calendar that goes back to the arrival in 78 A.D. of Indian Prince Aji Caka, who established a Hindu kingdom on Java. The holiday marks the beginning of the new year for Hindus. This year, it fell on March 30.

Father I Gusti Bagus Dominikus Kusumawanta, director of Holy Spirit Minor Seminary in Tuka, 13 kilometers west of Denpasar, capital of Bali province, told UCA News March 31 that he directed seminarians to go home for three days, March 29-31. "It is to show respect for Balinese Hindus celebrating Nyepi, even though the majority of the people around the seminary are Catholics," he explained. Hindus stay at home for the religious holiday.

Tuka has 145 Catholic families and nine Hindu families. Holy Trinity Church there serves about 450 Catholic families from several villages. Denpasar is 645 kilometers east of Jakarta.

Father Kusumawanta closed the seminary "to avoid noise and the possibility of a seminarian turning on a light during Nyepi," out of respect for the Hindu celebration. Balinese Hindus do not light fires or turn on lights during the observance. They refrain from working, leaving their house and entertainment.

According to the seminary director, who is Balinese, Nyepi is not only a religious rite of Hindus "but gives momentum for Catholics to reflect, especially during Lent." Jesus himself, he added, looked for a silent or quiet place to know his Father´s will.

Divine Word Father Kristianus Ratu, parish priest in Tuka, told UCA News the same day that darkness is not enjoyable, "but in that situation we can feel how bad is the ´darkness´ of sin, so that during Lent the darkness motivates us to wait for the light, Jesus Christ."

For Nyepi, he said, Catholics in Tuka and elsewhere on predominantly Hindu Bali stop their normal routine. Father Ratu is from predominantly Catholic Flores Island.

Jack Ketut Mudastra, head of the Tuka parish pastoral council, told UCA News that even though there are only nine Hindu families in Tuka, local Catholics "sincerely observe Hindu customs on Nyepi out of respect for them."

Franciscus Xaverius Made Hirawan, a local layperson in the village, said the only light left on at the church during Nyepi was the tabernacle lamp. But he noted that "the tabernacle was located in an isolated and closed room."

Otherwise, he told UCA News March 31, Catholics observed all the Hindu customs on Nyepi "not because the parish priest or council told them to do so, but to respect their (Hindu) neighbors."

Yoseph Gede Sutmasa and other Catholics not only joined neighbors in observing Hindu customs but also made ogoh-ogoh, large dolls symbolizing evil spirits that are carried in procession and burned the day before Nyepi. "We do not participate in the religious rites, but make artistic creations," said the lecturer at a private university in Bali.

Bishop Benyamin Yosef Bria of Denpasar told UCA News March 24 that he had urged Catholics in Bali to respect Hindus celebrating their New Year by observing Nyepi customs such as staying at home and not turning on lights. He also asked parishes not to celebrate daily Mass or turn on lights in the church that day.

"Because Nyepi and Lenten time coincided, we can use the time to reflect on the suffering of Christ who sacrificed himself to give salvation to his people," the prelate said.


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