President calls for improved harmony between faiths
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially opened the 24th National Koran Recital Competition (MTQ) in Ambon and appealed to citizens to improve religious life and foster harmony between the different faiths
Yudhoyono said it was necessary to build a religious and tolerant society.
“That value is being demonstrated by the diverse Ambon people. This MTQ is the result of corroboration with those of different faiths,” he said as quoted by Antara.
The ceremony was held at Merdeka Square in the rain. The event, which runs until June 19, will see 1,980 participants from all 33 provinces.
The President, accompanied by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, opened the annual event at 7:30 p.m. local time under tight security.
Guests were required to pass through entrances equipped with metal detectors. They had to leave behind liquid substances and items that could compromise security. Security personnel also inspected all the guests and their belongings before they entered the square.
Meanwhile, the East Java contingent said they aimed to achieve the top position in the event.
“We don’t only wish to become overall champion but also the best team,” East Java Religious Affairs Office’s Islam Education and Mosque Empowerment Affairs head Warsito said as reported by Antara.
Warsito said his team was eager to improve from its standings at the 23rd MTQ in Bengkulu in 2010.
“We wish to improve our position at the Ambon MTQ, but becoming the overall winner must be obtained in a good way,” he said.
According to him, his office had prepared the team for the past year, such as through competing at the provincial level MTQ in Madiun in 2011.
“The first and second winners from the East Java MTQ were specially trained so they would be really prepared,” he said.
When asked which category of the competition East Java was banking on in the MTQ, he said the province strength was in the Hifzil Koran recital between chapters 20 and 30.
The 24th MTQ has six categories, including Koran recital, writing and memorizing.
After the President and his entourage’s flight was reported to have initially been diverted due to bad weather, they arrived safely at Pattimura Airport in Ambon on a Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-800.
“At that time, the weather in Ambon was so bad that landing looked impossible. Visibility was reportedly only 700 meters,” presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said in Jakarta.
The pilot decided to divert to the Indonesian Air Force’s Sultan Hasanuddin airfield in Makassar, South Sulawesi, a one-hour flight from Ambon.
The plane continued to Ambon after spending about one hour in Makassar.
Included in the President’s delegation were some Cabinet members, such as Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi, Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto, Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu.
On Saturday, the delegation will fly to Denpasar, Bali, where Yudhoyono will hold a limited Cabinet meeting and open the 33rd Bali Arts Festival. The President is expected to be back in Jakarta by Tuesday.
— Bagus BT Saragih contributed reporting from Jakarta