Jakarta. Millions of Indonesians gathered at village fields, town centers and local mosques on Sunday (25/06) to celebrate Idul Fitri, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Senior ulema, or Islamic scholar, Quraish Shihab led Sunday's Eid prayer at the Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta, explaining that nationalism, patriotism and the love of homeland is man's natural instinct.
"The country is the motherland that loves us so much [...] it presents everything for us, we instinctively love it, that is nature, the human instinct. The love of the homeland is the manifestation and the impact of faith," Quraish said.
"Our homeland stretches from Sabang [Aceh] to Merauke [Papua] and has allowed us to build, prosper and maintain unity," the scholar said.
The ulema's messages come as Indonesia seeks to heal from one of the most divisive political campaigns in recent history. In May, former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was imprisoned for two years on blasphemy charges, after he made lighthearted comments about the perils of misusing the Koran for political gain earlier in November 2016.
The government has also intensified pressure on Islamist organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), which seeks to establish a global Islamic caliphate, thus undermining the sovereignty of the Indonesian government.
Quraish said Muslims must uphold national unity despite the plurality of religions, tribes, belief systems and political views found across the archipelago.
"If there are people who spread terror, obstruct justice, deny the way of peace, then humanity must prevent them," he said.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his family, as well as Vice President Jusuf Kalla and wife Mufidah Jusuf Kalla, attended Sunday's prayer at Istiqlal Mosque.
Saudi-born ulema Sheikh Ali Jaber, who is also a popular preacher on Indonesian television, gave a similar sermon to the National Police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) at their headquarters in Depok, West Java.
"A sign of our gratefulness is to keep this peace and unity. Do not let this blessing to be revoked by God, we have to maintain [the peace]," Sheikh Ali said.
Idul Fitri celebrations in the capital have transpired without any major incident, as police implemented heightened security measures across the city. However, in Medan, North Sumatra, a policeman was stabbed to death after two assailants stormed a local police station in what authorities in an apparent terror attack.
Act of Tolerance
Many churches across Indonesia delayed their Sunday service out of respect for the country's Muslim population, who welcomed the beginning of the holiday with the morning Eid prayer. Jakarta Cathedral, located just adjacent to the Istiqlal Mosque, held mass at 10.00 a.m. after the prayer.
The church also offered its parking lot to worshipers attending the Eid prayer at the Istiqlal Mosque.
"This was not a specific request from the Istiqlal Mosque. Instead, it shows a religious tolerance, especially in Jakarta, which I think is normal in such circumstances," said Father Adi Prasojo, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Jakarta.
The St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jember, East Java, also moved its morning services to the afternoon to accommodate Muslims prayer held at the nearby Al Baitul Amin Mosque.
Last Minute Decision
For six consecutive years, the majority of Indonesians have celebrated Idul Fitri on the same day. On Saturday, the government finally decided that the first Syawal, or the day the marks the end of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar, would fall on Sunday.
In 2011, 22 million Muhammadiyah members celebrated the holiday one day earlier than their counterparts adhering to the government's announcement, basing their decision to celebrate Idul Fitri on an astronomical computation, or hisab.
The government and other organizations, such as Nahdlatul Ulama, the nation’s largest Muslim group, insist that observers must be able to confirm the calculation through visual observation, or rukyat.
Some fringe Islamic sects still deviate from the widely accepted calculation, however. The Nadzir, a small Muslim community in Gowa, South Sulawesi, always celebrates Idul Fitri a day earlier than the government's predetermined date.