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Interfaith Tolerance In an Indonesian Village

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Hindu New Year in Bali, Indonesia Image: theatlantic

Every year, the day after Nyepi – the Hindu New Year’s Day in Indonesia – a parade of relatives and friends descends on the home of Sucipto, a Hindu community leader in Glanggang Village of Malang regency in East Java.

The well-wishers are not just Hindus, but Muslims too. This religiously diverse village is like many others in mostly moderate, Muslim-majority Indonesia – it has nurtured a tradition of interfaith tolerance for decades.

Nyepi lasts for three days and its mood – both joyful and contemplative – infects the whole village.

Hindus stay home and remain quiet on Nyepi, which fell on March 9 this year, but the following day is for visiting.

“More guests come in the evening. My living room can’t hold any more,” Sucipto told BenarNews from his home where the coffee table was laden with snacks, bananas and mineral water for visitors (below).

Image Source: BenarNews

Muriadi, Sucipto’s former junior high school mate, visits Sucipto on Nyepi every year. And every year, Sucipto shows up on Idul Fitri, Islam’s most festive day, at Muriadi’s house.

“We respect each other’s belief,” Muriadi said.

Muriadi says he has taught his children that same spirit of tolerance.

“It seems natural, as the neighborhood has been practicing religious tolerance for such a long time,” he said.

Another visitor was Sucipto’s Muslim niece, Wahyuni. Every year, her family makes the 50-kilometer (31-mile) trip by motorcycle from their home in another village to pay respects to Sucipto. Interfaith relations are a family affair.

“Our family members vary. Some of them practice Hinduism, some Islam, and others are Christians. We respect each other,” said Wahyuni.

Day of Silence

About 170 of 1,000 families in Glanggang Village practice Hinduism. The rest are Muslims and Christians, both Protestant and Catholic.

Traditional Hindu ornaments, called penjor, decorate front yards in the Karang Tengah neighborhood, where the Eka Kapti Hindu temple and a mosque stand 100 meters apart.

The whole village was silent on Nyepi, when Hindus cannot work, go out, light fires or use electricity. Although not required or requested to do so, many Muslims observed the same restrictions.

Kasir, who is Muslim, turned off all the lights in his house and stayed home much of the day.

“It is my way to show respect to those who observed the day,” he said.

Another Muslim, Misenah, did not run her tempeh-making business because the machines that make the fermented soybean cakes are noisy.

“No, I don’t mind to halt production for just one day. It’s my way to respect them,” she said.

Mosques in the village announced the call to prayer on loudspeakers, but Muslims went home quickly afterward, Kasir said.

Sucipto, for his part, says he has attended Qur’an recitals or other religious activities held by his non-Hindu neighbors.

He joins others neighbors to clean up the village’s cemetery complex twice a year: to welcome Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, and Hindu Nyepi.

Kasir, meanwhile, helped stage manage the Tawur Kesanga ceremony, the day before Nyepi, when Hindus make and burn ogoh-ogoh, ornate paper sculptures symbolizing evil spirits, in a nearby field. (Source- BenarNews)

  • Akanksha Sharma

    Nyepi is a day of complete silence, everyone including tourists, remain confined to their homes or hotels and special police ensures that everything is closed including the airports, ( although the hospitals and hotels stay open); that the streets are empty (except for ambulances); that no electricity or lights are being used.

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  • Akanksha Sharma

    Nyepi is a day of complete silence, everyone including tourists, remain confined to their homes or hotels and special police ensures that everything is closed including the airports, ( although the hospitals and hotels stay open); that the streets are empty (except for ambulances); that no electricity or lights are being used.

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Vote Amid Tight Security, Indonesia Elections Witness Higher Youth Participation

“All respectable polling are indicating a similar result which will be a reasonable victory for the incumbent and while the challenger did very well in the last debate I’m not sure that will be enough to change the game,”

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Elections
Indonesian election workers dressed in superhero costumes register voters at a polling station in Surabaya, April 17, 2019. VOA

Indonesians voted in national and regional elections Wednesday with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo widely expected to win a second term. However, late reports suggest his winning margin could be much smaller than anticipated.

Security was tight but friendly around Tamon Suropati, a leafy park in the plush suburb of Menteng, home to former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, as voting began under clear blue skies.

“Today, the election, I feel like Hari Raya, it means a big, big day for us,” said 69-year-old Enny, who voted alongside her twin sister for the incumbent, Widodo.

Paul Mirully a 43-year-old taxi driver, added: “For my choice in a president, No. 1 is good. Royally, religiously and for the prospects of Indonesia it’s very good, sir.”

Incumbent President Joko Widodo and his wife, Iriana Widodo, display their inked fingers after casting their ballot at a polling center during the presidential and legislative election in Jakarta, April 17, 2019.
Incumbent President Joko Widodo and his wife, Iriana Widodo, display their inked fingers after casting their ballot at a polling center during the presidential and legislative election in Jakarta, April 17, 2019. VOA

Turnout a factor

For many it was a family day out. Adhi Rasjid, a 48-year-old mining executive, said voting was smooth despite concerns over “golput,” a term used to describe deliberately spoiled ballots and voters who abstain, particularly among millennials.

“I think the turnout for the younger voters are increasing now, compared to say 10 years ago. I think the issues are more relevant. So I hope they take a bigger part in our democracy,” Rasjid said.

There are 60 million voters younger than 30, and surveys have indicated that many could abstain and skew the final result. But retired three-star general Ian Santoso Perdanakusuma told VOA voting had gone well.

“I am happy, everything is very good for Indonesians,” he said. “I haven’t seen any, any movements against the security. I’m happy that it will be good in the next year and the next five years, I hope.”

Voting numbers peaked around 11 a.m. local time, and counting got underway at 1 p.m. after polling stations closed, with a clearer picture of the results expected to emerge later in the evening. Official results were not expected to be known for several weeks.

Presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto shows off his ink-dyed finger after casting his vote in Indonesia's general election at a polling station in Bogor, April 17, 2019.
Presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto shows off his ink-dyed finger after casting his vote in Indonesia’s general election at a polling station in Bogor, April 17, 2019. VOA

Clear favorite

Jokowi went into this poll as the clear favorite, carrying a 20 percentage point lead over his rival, Prabowo Subianto, following five years at the helm where he was praised for delivering on badly needed big ticket infrastructure projects and a national health scheme.

The pair had squared off in five nationally televised debates with most political pundits judging the contest about even and analysts say Jokowi needs to win with a comfortable margin of 8-10% if he is to avoid protests and legal challenges by the opposition camp.

Prabowo has already raised the prospect of “ghost voters” and potential rigging in the fifth ballot to be held since the downfall of President Suharto in 1998 and the outbreak deadly protests across the archipelago of more than 18,000 islands.

“Everybody who loses, pro-forma, takes their case to the constitutional court and then they accept the verdict afterwards. I see no reason to see anything different this time,” said Kevin Evans, director of the Australia-Indonesia Center.

“People like to talk about Armageddon kind of outcomes here. They’ve been predicting violence at every election since I’ve been here and the only violence was during the pre-democratic period. In the democratic period, it hasn’t been the case,” he added.

There were reports that voting was stopped in two districts in the troubled far eastern province of Papua, where residents were arguing with police and ballot papers unavailable.

People look at a list of electoral candidates during elections in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 17, 2019.
People look at a list of electoral candidates during elections in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 17, 2019. VOA

Speculation online

And as the polls closed and early counting began, online speculation was rampant that Prabowo had performed better than expected, with one tweet claiming he expects to win 63% of the popular vote. Another said the Jokowi camp expected to win by a margin of 2-3%.

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However, analysts cast doubts on those figures.

“All respectable polling are indicating a similar result which will be a reasonable victory for the incumbent and while the challenger did very well in the last debate I’m not sure that will be enough to change the game,” Evans said. (VOA)