Made Anthony Iswara, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo called on all people of faith to pray for humanity as part of efforts to ease the struggle against COVID-19 and join a global spiritual movement.
Jokowi urged Indonesians during a speech for nationwide interfaith prayers on Thursday to stay optimistic and "pray endlessly", on top of other efforts to overcome the disease.
"Let's bow our heads together and humble ourselves as we ask the Almighty and the Most Merciful God to give us the patience to gracefully accept this disaster and be given strength so that we can all survive and pass [God's] trials," Jokowi said.
"Let's face this trial calmly and patiently. Panic is half of the disease, calmness is half of the serum and patience is the starting point for healing."
Six religious led the prayers: Kyai Haji Quraish Shihab for Muslims, cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo for Catholics, reverend Ronny Mandang for Protestants, Ida Pedanda Nabe Gede Bang Buruan Manuaba for the Hindu community, Banthe Sri Pannavaro Mahathera for Buddhists and Budi S. Tanuwibowo for Confucians.
Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, House of Representatives Speaker Puan Maharani and Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan were also present during the event.
The Religious Affairs Ministry also raised money for donations at the end of the prayer to help citizens affected by COVID-19.
Plans to hold mass prayers follow calls from Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb to pray on May 14 to ask God for salvation from the disease.
I would like to remind you that on 14 May, believers of every religion are invited to unite themselves spiritually in a day of prayer, fasting and works of charity, to implore God to help humanity overcome the coronavirus #pandemic. #HumanFraternity #PrayTogether – Pope Francis (@Pontifex) May 11, 2020
For many Indonesians, prayers may be the only way of hanging onto hope amid the outbreak that had infected more than 4.4 million people around the globe as of Thursday morning.
In Indonesia, the virus had claimed 1,028 lives and infected 15,438 people as of Wednesday.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted his support for prayer on May 3, calling the global event a "moment for reflection, hope and faith".
"As the virus wreaks havoc and disruption on a scale not seen in generations, we see a dawning awareness that the differences that so often divide us pale in significance," Guterres said during a high-level video conference on Tuesday.
In difficult times, we must stand together for peace, humanity & solidarity.
I join His Holiness Pope Francis (@Pontifex) and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb in their support for the Prayer for Humanity this 14 May – a moment for reflection, hope, and faith. – Antonio Guterres (@antonioguterres) May 3, 2020
Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy chairman Muhyiddin Junaidi told The Jakarta Post on Monday that the institution would also be taking part in the global movement alongside the Religious Affairs Ministry and Nahdlatul Ulama, with hopes of bidding good riddance to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We hope Indonesians can pray together solemnly and sincerely. There is wisdom that can be learned from this pandemic," said Muhyiddin. He added, however, that it took a combination of scientific and spiritual approaches to be able to effectively tackle the virus.
Indonesian Hindu Religious Council (PHDI) general secretary I Ketut Parwata said the group would also be joining the mass prayer, noting that the "power of prayer" was equally important to existing efforts to rid Indonesia of the disease.
Echoing the sentiments of the religious institutions, Wahid Foundation executive director Mujtaba Hamdi said the nationwide prayers could foster hope by promoting social cohesion and serve as a reminder that everything is part of God's plan, possibly alleviating any lingering psychological tensions.
However, Mujtaba also expressed disappointment that the government did not make use of the occasion to include native beliefs, despite growing acknowledgement of them following a 2017 Constitutional Court ruling that allowed people to list a native faith in the religion column of their identity cards.
"It gives the impression that the government only recognizes the official religions while apparently not taking non-official beliefs into consideration," he said. "It's a missed opportunity."
However, despite the online buzz surrounding the global prayers, not everyone seems to be aware of the plan to hold mass prayers.
Arthur James Michiels, 51, who helps oversee the local church in Kampung Tugu, North Jakarta, said on Tuesday that he had not received any information on the mass prayers.
"I go to the church almost every day but no one talks about [the Pope holding global prayers] on May 14," he said.