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Tuesday, January 8, 2013
MOSLEM YOUTH ASSIST CHRISTIAN HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS
With a succession of recent incidents raising concerns in Indonesia, religion continues to divide some communities across the archipelago. But in Madiun, East Java, harmony was the prevailing mood as a local Muslim youth organisation helped guard against attacks on Christians celebrating Christmas.
Dedi Subarno, a member of the Islamic Youth Movement (Gerakan Pemuda Islam) described the move as "an example of tolerance in our region". It is not the first time young Muslims have reached out across religious lines, he added.
"I have been active in these kinds of efforts for years," he told Khabar.
Dedi who also serves as a member of the Indonesian National Armed Forces (Tentara National Indonesia) said that it is everyone’s responsibility to keep the community safe.
"My job and my commitment all are aimed at protecting the minority," he said.
Indonesians from different faith communities – including Muslims, Buddhists and Christians – participated in Christmas celebrations held at the Merdeka Hotel on December 26th. The event went off without a hitch.
Police kept a vigilant eye on the security situation, with about 400 personnel deployed to ward off any intrusion by militants. "We realised that many threats can happen during this religious holiday," Police Commissioner Adjutant Baru Sutrisno told Khabar. "Therefore, we responded with increased security."
A local church member, 27-year-old Veronica Kristiana, expressed her satisfaction with the tolerant and secure atmosphere.
"The security provided by the police and Islamic organisations made me feel safe and comfortable while worshiping," she told Khabar. "I loved seeing all the people get together like this. Christmas brings a message of peace and brotherhood. Hopefully, harmony will continue to improve in our region," she said.
The co-operation goes both ways. During Ramadan last year, Christian churches in Madiun held special programmes offering free food and medical service to the poor, in an effort to build bridges across religious lines.
Ali Syukur Soleh, a member of the city's Religious Communication Forum (Forum Komunikasi Umat Beragama), said militants do no favours to Islam when they perpetrate violence in its name.
"There's no point in doing terror, either at Christmas or New Year's, now or at any other time. Radicalism, whatever its form, including terrorism, will only damages the name of religion (referring to Islam)," he said.
The Director of the Inter-Church Consultative Body in Madiun (Badan Musyawarah Antar Gereja di Madiun), Edwin Suswanto, urged Indonesians to join together in making a real commitment to tolerance.
"Let's put behind what happened in the past when several terrorist suspects were arrested in Madiun, he said."I hope the atmosphere in Madiun continues to improve; safe, peaceful, people united in harmony and prosperity."
By Yenny Herawati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Madiun