JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Indonesia is set to use the momentum from the holy Islamic month of Ramadan to take its first steps towards the new normal.
But areas deemed to be high-risk Covid-19 zones might want to hold their breath, as they still have to live under a lockdown of sorts.
Indonesia Will Begin Holy Muslim Fasting Month of Ramadan April 13
Indonesia will observe the first day of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on Tuesday, following an isbat (confirmation) meeting held by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, several Islamic organizations, and other institutions in Jakarta Monday.
“Without any dissenting opinions, we declare the first day of Ramadan 1442 Hijriah falls on April 13, 2021,” Minister of Religious Affairs Yaqut Cholil Qoumas announced.
His emphasis highlighted the long-running disagreement between the government and the Nahdlatul Ulama Islamic organization on one side, versus the latter’s rival Muhammadiyah, on the start and end of Ramadhan.
Yaqut explained that the meeting’s decision was based on hisab (astronomical calculations) and rukyat (lunar movement observations) across Indonesia.
"Thirteen people under oath witnessed that the crescent moon [symbolizing the start of Ramadan] was sighted [at all designated locations]," Yaqut said. "Tonight we can start the tarawih [evening Ramadan prayers] and in the morning we perform sahur [pre-dawn meal]."
Ramadan is expected to last 30 days. The government will hold another isbat meeting on May 11 to determine the first day of Syawal month, which marks the Eid al-Fitr celebrations, whichi is also known as Idul Fitri or Lebaran.
This year's Ramadan for most Muslims will be held under partial lockdown, adding the challenges of this arduous but spiritually rewarding month.
Unlike last year, large public gatherings celebrating Ramadan such as tarawih or communal fast-breaking are allowed. But the government called on Muslims to refrain from holding or attending crowd-pulling events during the Covid-19 outbreak to avoid transmission of the virus.
Ministry of Religious Affairs: No Ramadan Gatherings in Covid-19 High Risk Zones
The government might have loosened rules on mass Tarawih prayers or communal fast-breaking for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in 2021, more than a year after social distancing and other health protocols set up in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed social gatherings .
But Minister of Religious Affairs Yaqut Cholil Qoumas announced that the breaks will not extend to orange or red zone communities which remain at high risk of Covid-19.
“Communities that remain vulnerable to Covid-19 should carry out their Ramadan activities at home, so as to avoid Covid-19 transmission to their loved ones,” he said. “These include Tarawih prayers, communal fast-breaking, sermons or Id prayers during Eid-al Fitr or Lebaran.”
Yaqut maintained the measures are needed for the public to safely observe Ramadan and Lebaran.
On the other hand, the former head of the Ansor Youth Islamic organization assured that “mosques or musala prayer halls in yellow or green zones or Covid-19 free areas are permitted to hold tarawih prayers, sermons and Id prayers or other crowded events, as long as it is up to 50 percent capacity.”
He added that strict health protocols will be enforced, such as temperature checks, washing hands, social distancing of one meter between congregants and urging the faithful to bring their own prayer mats.
Police in Papua Deny Insurgent Claims That Schoolteachers Are Informants
The Papuan Regional Police has strongly denied claims by insurgents or Armed Criminal Groups [KKB] that one of the schoolteachers that the latter shot dead in Puncak regency’s Beoga district was an informant for Indonesian police or military forces.
“The two schoolteachers that the KKB executed are not informants,” the Antara state news agency quoted Papua Regional Police chief Inspector General Mathius D. Fakhiri as saying.
“They are educators who play a vital role in educating young Papuans, especially in inland areas, to prepare them to be Papua’s future. [The KKB’s] should not attempt to justify their actions, as doing so reflects their lack of conscience.”
Fakhiri added that Papuans in inland areas like Beoga owe much to teachers, medical workers and humanitarian workers, as they gave up modern-day amenities to volunteer and serve the locals.
“Skilled people like teachers and medical workers are very important, as they teach [the local people] indispensable skills. There are very few teachers who are willing to go to [rough] areas [like Beoga],” he maintained.
“They should have been protected, not murdered.” Toraja community stalwart and Mimika regency legislator Daud Bunga reiterated Fakhiri.
“[The police and military] should give full protection to [teachers and other volunteers]. They are civilians who are only trying to do their jobs and make an honest living. So why are they inhumanely treated [by the insurgents],” he lamented.
The KKB killed schoolteacher Oktovianus Rayo in front of his house last Thursday, April 8. They also shot and killed junior high schoolteacher Yonatan Randen the following day and torched the school where they taught in Beoga.
Their remains were evacuated by plane from Beoga to Mimika last Saturday, after the provincial administration for the Puncak regency paid off the insurgents to grant the aircraft safe access to the Beoga airfield.
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