Fri, 07 Mar 2003

NU to pray for peace

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) will hold a national mass prayer in Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday to call on the nation to ask for God's forgiveness.

NU Chairman Hasyim Muzadi said on Thursday that through the mass prayer, participants would pray for an end to the country's chaotic situation and "thereby becoming aware of our sins and finding the only key to reviving our life".

"We'll hold the public prayer to ask for God's mercy so that Indonesia can cope with all its problems...which I believe will worsen towards to the 2004 general election," said Hasyim, adding that some one million NU members and invitees were expected to attend the prayer.

"We will also pray for world peace because any attack by a country against a sovereign country is a type of violence," said Hasyim referring to the U.S. and its allies' threat of force in order to disarm Iraq's Saddam Hussein, despite millions of people around the world who oppose the U.S. action, including Indonesia.

The public prayer would be the fifth organized by the 40- million strong Muslim organization. The first mass prayer was held in 1994, the second was in 1998, only 10 days after the downfall of former president Soeharto in May, 22, 1998, and the third in July 2000. The last NU mass prayer was in April, 2001, or two months before then president Abdurraman "Gus Dur" Wahid -- also a former NU chairman -- was ousted from office by his political opponents.

Hasyim said President Megawati Soekarnoputri and Vice President Hamzah Haz were not invited to the public prayer "because we cannot allocate them time to speak".

Hasyim, nevertheless, said that he had sent invitation letters to the headquarters of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and Hamzah's United Development Party (PPP).

Megawati is PDI Perjuangan's chairperson, while Hamzah is PPP chairman.

Several influential NU ulemas, including some 55 ulemas from the strife-torn province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam as well as other NU stronghold regions such as East, West and Central Java, will also attend the mass prayer.

Hasyim also confirmed that Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu would be among those praying at the Brawijaya Military Command in Surabaya, East Java.