Former first lady hosts interfaith sahur

Sinta Nuriyah Wahid delivers a message of tolerance during Ramadan, saying Muslims and non-Muslims must be united for a peaceful Indonesia.

By Yenny Herawati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Bogor, West Java

August 03, 2013
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Sinta Nuriyah Wahid, former first lady of Indonesia, is determined to carry on the legacy of her late husband, Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur.

  • A man prays at a mosque on the first day of Ramadan in Jakarta on July 10th. Former first lady Sinta Nuriyah Wahid hosted a predawn meal and interfaith dialogue the following morning at Pesantren Al Ghazaly in Bogor. [Adek Berry/AFP]

    A man prays at a mosque on the first day of Ramadan in Jakarta on July 10th. Former first lady Sinta Nuriyah Wahid hosted a predawn meal and interfaith dialogue the following morning at Pesantren Al Ghazaly in Bogor. [Adek Berry/AFP]

The longtime Nahdlatul Ulama leader, who served as Indonesia's president from 1999 to 2001, is regarded as a father of pluralism and democracy, and a strong advocate of religious tolerance.

Keeping his spirit alive, Sinta hosted a pre-dawn Ramadan meal and dialogue to promote interfaith understanding at Pesantren Al Ghazaly in Bogor on July 11th.

"We always conducted similar activities when my husband was the president. Ramadan is a time when everyone gets together. I would like to continue these activities," Sinta said.

"We would like to interact with people from various backgrounds as a reminder that we are living among those with different faiths and ethnicities. We need to provide an example for our community that everyone can get together in peace regardless of our differences," she added.

The lessons of Ramadan

About 300 people attended the pre-dawn meal, known as Sahur. Among them was Fransiscus Hari, who spoke with Khabar Southeast Asia a day after the event.

"I am really fortunate that I had an opportunity to attend this forum. Even though I am not a Muslim, everyone was friendly and greeted me warmly," he said. "We had good dialogues among followers of different religions. We forgot what conflicts had occurred [in West Java]. The event gave us a lot of room to learn from each other."

According to the former first lady, fasting teaches patience and the ability to withstand thirst, hunger and lust. "Various actions of corruption have been caused by an eroding faith, and now it is a time to leave any bad behaviours behind. We need to move forward," Sinta added.

She also asked everyone to embrace tolerance and peace, and to help those in need, including street children and the homeless.

The head of the Pesantren Al Ghazaly, Mustafa bin Abdullah bin Nuh, called for bringing all religious followers together as one nation.

"Islam is the religion of the majority in our country and in the past Islam was able to unite Indonesia under the Pancasila, the five philosophical pillars of Indonesia, and under the Indonesian constitution of 1945," he said.

"And I am sure it still does," he added.

Prophet teaches love, respect and harmony

Bogor city community leader Dody Rosadi praised the gathering as a positive development. "We need many more similar events in Bogor and other places, especially when the community has various religious followers," he told Khabar.

"We have to use the life of our Prophet as guidance for living. He teaches us love, respect, and harmony," he said. "Do not just perform acts of worship and religious rituals – we must change our attitude and behaviour to be better."

Muhammad Akbar, an Al Ghazaly student, admitted that he became more open and tolerant after attending the event.

"Before attending this event, I only focused on Islam and was not very open to other religions. I just thought we are different. But with this event, I can see tolerance in practice," he said.

Alex Paul, a member of the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, said such moments of togetherness are what Indonesia needs. "Events like this tear down the differences in society. Hopefully, this will be followed by other communities," Alex told Khabar.

John Naidoo, one of the interfaith leaders at the event, said that the religious differences in Indonesia are God's beautiful creation, and that Indonesians must remember the national motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity).

"It is a powerful motto. It is telling you about Indonesia, and it is our identity," he said.

Reader Comments
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    • goris
      August 15, 2013 @ 12:08:10PM
    • Gus Dur was a great father for the nation. his name will be carried on from generations to generation. Mummy Shinta congratulation!!!!!
    • angmamuk
      August 7, 2013 @ 02:08:00PM
    • Continue for the establishment of a civilized country.
    • rusdi
      August 6, 2013 @ 12:08:32PM
    • Allah's blessings be upon you! Many people say that the NU are traditional village people. But, we can see that nationalism is upheld, both by its leaders and its members! Allah is pure!
    • Helena
      August 3, 2013 @ 12:08:52PM
    • Hopefully Gus Dur's tradition can be continued by the younger generation. Losing Gus Dur was a great loss for this nation. Gus Dur was this nation's shepherd who was always firm and had no qualms about reminding the sheep that wished to stray from the nation's goals. His stand was always clear, never grey.

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