December 24, 2019
He is a moderate Muslim and a good governor in his second term. Every Christmas he visits a number of Christian places to see their Christmas activities and share good cheer and promote unity and respect among different religions. We were only told on Saturday that he wanted to come, Sunday evening four of his staff came to see the location and explain to Ibu Cory, Cathrin and me what was going to happen. We made a program with them and told the community. The vigil of Christmas is usually one of the busiest days of the year with preparations in the kitchen, the guesthouse, the church, the refectory as well as regular work and all the Christmas cribs that need final touches. But this was an added activity….
We notified our neighboring villages because this was a big local event and we invited them to help welcome the governor. They decorated the road through the village with banners and came up to the monastery in their best clothes – lots of children.
The first to arrive were a couple of photographers at 7.00 then the protocol staff at 7.30. Governor Ganjar was coming on a motorcycle with about 30 people – he’s very sportive and informal to be close to the people – plus the Salatiga police that had been notified and the local intell people whom we know well.
The Governor was greeted with excitement at 9.00 and he quickly went to the children and gave out some small footballs as he talked with them. Then he came up to the church with us where a few sisters were arranging the Christmas crib. He appreciated their work and passed through the church into the monastery asking questions all the way about our life and history and customs. Some Moslems refuse to enter a church but Governor Ganjar is very open and trying to show by his own actions how we can live together in harmony. He was very impressed with the good relations between the community and our neighbors – all Moslems. The young men who formed a group years ago to guard the road up to the monastery every Christmas and Easter night and have become a very friendly honor guard were all present and paid their respects to the Governor.
He wanted to see the place where we make kefir even though he didn’t know the name. He tasted it and ordered 10 bottles of each flavor. Then on to the cookies. Delicious! Who invented the recipe? Immaculata after 10 tries! He talked with everyone he met, sister or worker, asking where they were from, with freedom and ease – no sign of being a high official. This is very new in Indonesia!
Then we went back down to the chapter room to meet with the community who had gathered after morning work. We had a warm exchange full of smiles and laughter. Then we invited the governor to come as we practiced a Christmas song for the midnight mass and he and his companions followed us into church and went to the guest chapel to listen as we sang a four-voice rendition of Adeste Fideles. Then someone had the idea that we needed a group photo with our guests and so the community came out the guest chapel door and we had photos on the steps with more laughter and singing ‘Terima Kasih Seribu’.
Then there were still more photos together with our neighbors from the village and more laughter and handshakes until finally the governor and his group got on their motorcycles to continue their visits. The last-minute of the video shows him in a Catholic parish church. He was very happy with his visit at Gedono and so impressed that a 30-minute video of Gedono was put on his youtube channel and about 150.000 people have watched it. (YouTube Ganjar Prawono/Disambut Santri dan Suster)
All our friends were happy with this witness to interreligious friendship. It also shows that the image many people in the world have that all Moslems are aggressive is distorted. Let there be peace and harmony in Indonesia and the world in the New Year! Christmas brings encounters of joy even for the Moslems!