Tolerance on display for New Year in Bali

Tolerance on display for New Year in Bali

Preparations are gearing up for Nyepi, the Balinese Hindu Day of Silence, which falls on Saturday.

This year's celebration will offer another demonstration of Bali's strong interfaith relations, as the celebration coincides with the Catholic period of Lent, where adherents fast and make penitence in preparation for Easter.

Chairman of Bali's Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB), Ida I Dewa Gede Ngurah Swasta, said all interfaith leaders had pledged to safeguard Nyepi.

Leaders in the forum hailed from diverse religious organisations, including the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council (PHDI), the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the Denpasar Catholic Diocese, the Indonesian Church Organisation (MPAG), the Council of Buddhist Communities (Walubi), the Confucian Council, Bali Interfaith Forum, the Grand Council of Customary Villages (MUDP) and the local religious affairs offices.

Swasta said the Catholic community had agreed to make adjustments to their Lenten observations to accommodate Nyepi.

Catholic churches on the island will hold the Good Friday stations-of-the-cross service in the morning rather than in the evening, when they are customarily held. In addition, they have agreed not to hold Saturday evening mass to show respect for Hindus on their day of silence.

"We are grateful that all interfaith leaders on the island continue to uphold tolerance. This has been proven by our long history of tolerance in Bali," Swasta said on Wednesday.

During Nyepi, Balinese Hindus will celebrate the Caka New Year through meditation and contemplation and refrain from using electricity, making fires, traveling outside homes or participating in entertainment activities.

Visitors and non-Hindu residents are expected to show respect for Nyepi by following rules set by the local authorities and traditional village guards.

The local administration said Bali would be closed for 24 hours during the holiday. All of the island's gates-of-entry, including the Ngurah Rai International Airport and three major ferry harbors, would also be closed from 6 a.m. on March 21 until 6 a.m. the following day.

In addition to several traditional fishing ports, the Gilimanuk Ferry Port, Padang Bai Ferry Port, Benoa central harbour and Celukan Bawang cargo port will be closed. All public transportation terminals in Bali will cease operations as well.

The Bali branch of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPID) has urged broadcast media - both radio and television - to cease operations during Nyepi.

"We urge all broadcast media to cease operations to respect Balinese Hindus celebrating Nyepi," KPID commissioner Nengah Muliarta said.

KPID Bali sent the notice to all broadcasting entities, including 20 TV stations, 57 radio stations and a series of cable television networks. No penalty, however, will be imposed for those choosing to ignore the notice.

Bali Police are also making preparations, as are thousands of pecalang (traditional guards) in villages across the island.

Bali Police spokesperson, Sr. Comr. Hery Wiyanto, said that pecalang would assume the lead security-keeping role during the day, but police would be ready to step in should an incident arise.

"We have also mapped several areas in Bali that are prone to clashes or other security threats during Nyepi. We have anticipated any problems that could happen during the day," Hery said.

Police, he said, would also deploy personnel to safeguard the ogoh-ogoh (giant effigy) parade on the eve of Nyepi, which is also known as pengerupukan.

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