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.
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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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