World Bulletin / News Desk
Communal meals to celebrate the start and end of the daylight fast are a staple of Ramadan, but in Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim nation - the experience can incorporate food and guests of different faiths.
In the giant Mosque of Istiqlal -- the largest in Southeast Asia -- it is not uncommon to see Hindus, Christians and even Jews among the thousands served each day at sunset.
Muhammad Wahyono, a staff member at the Jakarta mosque -- Indonesia’s national -- said that they provide around 3,000 servings of “takjil” – the meal with which worshippers break their fast -- daily, through contributions from donors.
"Anyone who wants to come in, they are welcome. Whether they fast or not, we do not ask. Muslim or not, we won’t ask that either," he told Kompas.com.
Wahyono stressed the egalitarian nature of the communal meals in that thousands of people – needy and rich, Muslim and non-Muslim – dine together.
"They all eat the same menu," he said, listing extravagant dishes of rice, vegetables and several kinds of cakes and fruit – dates figuring strongly.
And while some mosques welcome non-Muslims, some Indonesian Muslims also eat iftar at the homes of other faiths.
On Bali, Hindus at Gerenceng Castle – the center of a former Hindu kingdom in the island's capital Denpasar – hold iftar events to strengthen the relationship between the city’s minority Muslims and majority Hindus.
"The Hindus at Gerenceng usually invite Muslims to break fast together to strengthen inter-religious brotherhood," Bali resident Erviani – who like many Indonesians uses one name – told Anadolu Agency.
She said that Hindus also invite Muslims to the site to celebrate "Galungan" – during which the Balinese believe ancestral spirits visit.
Meanwhile, in Semerang - a port city in Central Java province -- residents flock to eat an iftar dish originating overseas that is only available during Ramadan – “Indian Porridge."
Unlike the traditional porridges from Indonesia that are dominated by sweetness, the Indian variety has a savory taste derived from strong spices.
The popular recipe, brought by Indian merchants who ended up settling in the city centuries ago, is only served at the historic Pekojan Jami' Mosque, located in an area of Semerang where Indian, Chinese Buddhist and Javanese ethnicities coexist.
"You know what's so special about this iftar menu?" Pekojan’s caretaker Mat Soim asked Anadolu Agency on Friday.
"Because in order to enjoy it, hundreds of people from various backgrounds break fast together here."
He described how in the past, Indian merchants would invite locals to eat porridge with them during Ramadan - a custom now passed down through generations.
Producing it is a time-consuming affair -- Soim and two mosque staff stir the oats and spices for at least two hours without pause.
Toward sunset, they divide the dish into 200 bowls, and serve it with dates and “Zamzam” water -- from a well in Mecca that appeared during Prophet Ibrahim’s time -- to the crowds of children, women and men waiting patiently outside for the “azan” -- call to prayer.
With devotees flocking from faraway areas -- sometimes traveling for hours -- many are left disappointed.
"It's often all gone by the time they get here," Soim says.
Assembling the ingredients can be an expensive business. For help, he expresses gratitude to those from other faiths.
"Followers from other religions around here always support our activity,” said Soim.
“They never disturb us. We Muslims have gratitude for this condition."Last Mod: 20 Haziran 2015, 10:03