oleh FRANS OBON
ENDE, Indonesia (UCAN) -- Christian and Muslim leaders told people at Christmas and Id al-Adha (feast of sacrifice) celebrations here on Flores Island that working to end poverty provides common ground for practicing one's faith and working with people of other religions.
The Christmas party for civil servants in Ende district was held on Dec. 30, a Saturday, when government offices are closed, in the district office compound in Ende town, 1,630 kilometers east of Jakarta.
"The core of this Christmas celebration is inviting all people of faith to deeper concern for others, especially those who are suffering," Father Frederikus Dedhu, from Ende archdiocese's Christ the King Cathedral, told about 200 Catholics, Protestants and guests from other religions.
Catholics form the largest religious community in the district at 73 percent of the population. Close to 26 percent of the people are Muslims.
On the local government's website, 75 percent of families living in the district in 2005, or 36,576 of 48,678 families, were classified as poor. The total population was given as 254,640. According to the government's Central Bureau of Statistics, a person living in an urban area city with a monthly income under 139,000 rupiah (US$15) is considered poor, while the rural poverty threshold is equivalent to US$12.
The theme the Christmas celebration, organized by Catholic and Protestant civil servants, was With the spirit of Christmas we improve the spirit of work as well as harmony and unity.
"The spirit of Christmas," Father Dedhu said in his address, "means the spirit of helping others. This is reflected in our deeds to help the poor."
After his talk, several other religious leaders delivered short speeches.
Reverend Yoseph Reywuty Tarully from Evangelical Messiah Church of Timor called Christmas a celebration of humanity.
"It is ordinary if people believing in the same faith can live harmoniously, but it is extraordinary if people coming from different religions can work together to free people from poverty," he said.
Laseman, a Muslim leader, similarly stated: "Our tasks in the future include how we create unity, how we promote solidarity to fight against poverty, how we develop the quality of human resources and how we serve."
The next day, poverty also was the focus of an Id al-Adha prayer service held at the town's soccer field. The feast, based on the Islamic lunar calendar, commemorates Ibrahim (Abraham)'s sacrifice of an animal in place of his son. In the Book of Genesis, God orders Abraham to make the switch after first asking him to sacrifice his son and seeing his willingness to do so.
Muslims commemorate this show of faith by offering a cow, lamb or camel for sacrifice and sharing the meat with poor people, orphans and widows.
After the prayer service on Dec. 31, when Muslims in Indonesia marked Id al-Adha this year, 48 cows and 54 sheep were slaughtered. These animals, according to an organizer, came from local Muslims, Catholics and Protestants.
Taufig Rahmat, a Muslim leader, reminded the thousand Muslims attending the prayer service that "the basic spirit of Id al-Adha is in bravely sacrificing our possessions for the sake of the poor." This spirit was reflected "through the distribution of meat of sacrificial cattle to the poor," he added.
Rahmat invited Muslims to get involved in efforts to help end poverty. "We Muslims should work together with people from other religions who also care about the poor," he told them.
IS01722.1427 January 10, 2007 50 EM-lines (568 words)