Ramadan in Indonesia is not only celebrated by Muslims but also by other religious groups within the archipelago.
Thanks to a mostly open-minded society despite living among a generally Muslim population, this year’s Ramadan becomes a series of gatherings especially during Iftar hours, which turns out to be a picture of humanity, unity and tolerance in this culturally diverse country.
Iftar is considered as a sacred time where Muslims around the world break their fast. During iftar, kindness can be found in the streets with people giving away takjil and water for their Muslim friends still trapped in Jakarta traffic. Many mosques around the neighbourhood had organizers run by local residents cooking iftar dishes to be shared with one another, including those stopping by the mosque for twilight prayers.
Ramadan bridges the gap between religious communities and brings people from different backgrounds to eventually develop better understanding about each other. Indonesia has a long history that tells of uniting religious and ethnic diversity for a common cause.
In Jakarta, the harmony of tolerance can be found at the historical Vihara Dharma Bhakti, Petak Sembilan, Glodok. Almost every day, around 50 volunteers of Chinese-Indonesian background in the neighbourhood gives away 200 portions of meal to be given to local Muslim. Around 5.30pm, senior resident and children are allowed the chance to get the meal first, followed by people from other age group. Chinese-Indonesian provide takjil beverage such as kolak, es buah and ice tea. Iftar dinner is then celebrated around Vihara. Before taraweeh prayer, local Muslims and Chinese-Indonesian would continue to socialize well after enjoying iftar meal.
The Hindu community in Makassar also shares around 550 takjil meal for people passing by Pura Giri Natha. Indonesian Hindus participating in Parisadha Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PDHI) prepares small snacks and refreshing drinks to Muslims just before breakfasting time.
Religious pluralism also happens in churches with Christian and Catholic community. As the second largest population, the Christian and Catholic community shares takjil and iftar meal to Indonesian Muslims, most of which are less fortunate people.
Every Friday, nuns and youth members of the Catholic church of Santo Barnabas prepares takjil for 350 Muslims who are still struggling in the midst of South Tangerang traffic. The Church prepares Lebaran hampers to be given to less fortunate Muslims in Pamulang, South Tangerang. Organized since last year’s Ramadan, religious clerics and Catholic youth in the area aim to foster pluralism and tolerance.
The warm atmosphere of iftar moment can also be seen at St. Joseph Church in Jember, East Java, Bethany Church in North Sulawesi, St. Paulus Miki, Salatiga, Central Java and other parts of Indonesia.
Even though there is an escalation of fractured unity among some religious groups, the religious communion during these iftar dinners is a depiction on how diverse communities across Indonesia can choose the peaceful way and coexist.