LARANTUKA, KOMPAS.com - Thousands of Catholic pilgrims took part in a centuries-old Easter procession in eastern Indonesia on Friday, April 7, marking its return after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Around 7,000 people held Mass on Flores island's Larantuka for Good Friday before transporting a box believed to hold a sacred Baby Jesus statue in a flotilla along the Catholic-majority town's coast.
The wider Christian community in Muslim-majority Indonesia has been the target of discrimination and several Islamist militant attacks in recent years. Catholics represent around three percent of the secular democracy's 270 million people.
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, rituals returned in Larantuka, a quiet town dubbed by some as "Indonesia's Vatican".
Erasma Arpete Nilam said her "spiritual needs" pushed her to fly from Borneo island to take part.
"This is a spiritual pilgrimage. We were amazed. I got goosebumps seeing this for the first time," she said.
The annual event will culminate on Friday evening with a night parade attended by pilgrims in black clothing to mourn the death of Jesus.
They will light candles and carry a statue of Mary in a march alongside the Jesus statue, which is typically in a black-draped coffin.
The march attracts members of other faiths too, drawn in by the mix of local legend and religious rites.
The tradition has its roots in a 16th-century myth in which a boy is said to have found a female statue while fishing.
Locals who subscribed to pre-Catholic beliefs worshipped the statue before the arrival of Portuguese missionaries to Indonesia, who recognised it as Mary.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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