PAPUA – Amid increasing religious troubles worldwide, Muslims and Christians in the West Papua province are interweaving an atmosphere of harmony and peace for all faiths in the area.
"We are coming from the same land and culture," Andreas Wamena, a 37-year-old who grew up in Wamena alongside the children of Christian merchants, was quoted by Khabar Southeast Asia on Wednesday, December 18.
“Therefore, there is no reason for us to not get along with other ethnic tribes.”
West Papua, formerly West Irian Jaya or Irian Jaya Barat, is the least populous province of Indonesia.
The former Dutch colony has a population of approximately 2.6 million.
Christians make up nearly 78 percent of the population, Muslims 21 percent while the rest are Buddhists and Hindus.
There is also substantial practice of animism, though it is not recorded by Indonesian census.
Living side by side for decades, religious harmony has been connecting different faiths in the area.
Wamna's Muslims are welcomed to participate in cultural events, they were also allowed recently to attend municipal government meetings and run for local office.
Pork-free feats are one of Wemana's interfaith benchmarks which are held under the name 'Bakar Batu'.
In Bakur Batu, residents from different faiths come together to cook meat and vegetable over the heated stones.
In the pork-free gathering residents eat chicken, beef and goat instead of pork, as a sign of respect to Muslim participants.
"Before, we had not been involved in many local community programs," Hadiman Asso, a Wamena Muslim leader who lives in Jayapura, said.
"However, now, more people are aware of the existence of the small Muslim community in Wamena."
In the Christians-majority province, Muslims are treated equally to Christians and have an equal representation.
"The [provincial] government acknowledges opportunities for us to be civil servants and leaders," said Asso, the Wamena Muslim leader.
“We have similar opportunities just like all Christian Papuans.”
Signs of Tolerance and cooperation are found everywhere in Wamena where Muslims and Christians across the town join hands to build worship places.
They also share construction equipments to build a mosque or a church, Asso added.
“The elected officials are often also involved with different religious beliefs to promote tolerance and equality in Papua," said Victor Wanggai Papua Toni, chairman of the Wamena chapter of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
Pastor Sonny Manoach, with the Jayapura chapter of Indonesian Pentecostal Church (GPdI), shared a similar opinion.
"Issues involving ethnicity, religion, and race have occurred here and there. However, it never affected the harmony among religious followers in Papua,” he said.
"We are not easily provoked into violence."
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim state with Muslims making up around 85 percent of its 237-million population.
Christians, both Protestants and Catholics, make up nearly 12 percent of the country’s population.
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