Wed, 05 Mar 2003

Army chief to attend mass prayer

SURABAYA: Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu and former president Abdurrahman Wahid are expected to attend a mass prayer meeting organized by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in Surabaya, East Java, next Sunday.

"According to NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi, foreign affairs minister Hasan Wirayuda, religious affairs minister Said Aqil Husein Almunawar, Army chief Ryamizard and several cabinet ministers are planning to attend the prayer meeting," organizing committee chairman Sholeh Hayat said in Surabaya, East Java, on Tuesday.

NU, the country's largest Muslim organization, is organizing the prayer meeting at the Brawijaya military headquarters on Sunday. Over one million people, including foreign dignitaries and leaders of other religions, are expected to attend the gathering.

Sholeh said they had not invited President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Vice President Hamzah Haz, House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung or People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, as the committee wanted to avoid "the prayer meeting turing into a political gathering".

"The prayer is for the people, the nation and world peace. It's not political," Sholeh said, adding that the committee had invited the ministers in their private capacities.

NU claims to have some 40 million members. --JP