Lenny Tristia Tambun, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Friday approved a proposal to build an underground tunnel connecting the Istiqlal Mosque, one of the country's landmarks in Central Jakarta, with its neighbor, the St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral.
The mosque and the cathedral, built side-by-side in the country's center of government, have long been heralded as symbols of tolerance in the country. Muslims and Catholics usually share the mosque's and the church's parking space during major celebrations like Idul Fitri and Christmas.
"This will be a friendship tunnel. People would not need to cross [the road anymore] to go between the two places of worship," Jokowi said.
He said the tunnel can also be used as a place of gathering for the congregations of the mosque and the cathedral.
The tunnel construction will be part of a major renovation currently underway at Istiqlal.
Jokowi ordered the renovation last year after finding out some parts of the mosque had deteriorated badly when he accompanied Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a tour of the building, which was designed by Christian architect Frederich Silaban.
After the visit, Jokowi immediately instructed the Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono to renovate the mosque and complete it by April this year so it can be used for Lebaran.
The renovation of the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, which was opened to the public 41 years ago, will cost the government a total of Rp 475 billion ($35 million).