http://www.thejakartapost.com/detailheadlines.asp?fileid=20021021.A01&irec=0

Back to Home Page Headline News October 21, 2002

UNITED IN PRAYER: Muslims, Christians and Buddhists join Hindu Balinese in a prayer gathering at Kuta Beach. The Mahashanti Puja (prayer for peace) was held on Sunday to ask God to bestow peace on the souls of the 184 victims of the Oct. 12 bombing.JP/Murdani Usman

Service unites interfaith communities in prayer for peace

I Wayan Juniartha, The Jakarta Post, Kuta, Bali

Hundreds of Hindu, Islam, Christian and Buddhism followers gathered at the famous Kuta Beach on Sunday evening to take part in an interfaith service, a Mahashanti Puja (prayer for peace), to ask God to bestow peace on the souls of 184 victims of the Oct. 12 bombing.

"We ask God to engulf these souls in his infinite compassion and love so that their journey to the next realm will not be hampered by the violent nature of their deaths," said event initiator Agus Indra Udayana of Gandhi Puri Ashram. 

"We also appeal that God may strengthen the faith of the deceased families and the Balinese people so that the pain and anguish caused by the terrorist attack will not transform into hatred or a desire for revenge. Violence will not solve anything, and both the terrorists and we should understand this truth," he said. 

The Mahashanti Puja was held only 500 meters from the site of the explosions. 

At least three different Hindu groups participated in the Mahashanti Puja, namely, the followers of Sai Baba, Hare Khrisna and Mahatma Gandhi. Meanwhile the Muslims attending came mainly from the country's largest Muslim organization, Nadhlatul Ulama (NU). 

A Pada Yatra, (peace walk) during which all the participants walked some 400 meters along the beach while carrying a 60-meter-long white cloth stretched above their head, started the Puja

"During the walk all of us chanted the sacred songs of our beliefs as our part in performing Pamarisuddha Bumi (Earth purification)," Agus Indra Udayana said. 

After the Pada Yatra, each religious group prayed successively and performed a ritual for the souls. The Buddhists, for instance, chanted the Mahakaruna Dharani (prayer for universal love), a wish for happiness and peace for every being. 

Meanwhile, the Hindus performed the Agni Hotra, (fire homage) while reciting the Maha Mantra for the souls' safe and speedy journey to the abode of God. 

"The explosion was powerful and shattered part of our sanity, but it will fail in turning us into the kind of people the terrorists are -- violent, merciless and bloodthirsty," a Hare Khrisna follower said. 

As the sun gradually set in the beautiful evening horizon of Kuta Beach and a full moon appeared in the east, the participants lit bamboo torches and carried the white cloth into the sea. This marked the end of the ritual. 

"It was a symbolic act of guiding the deceased souls into the dwelling of the Lord of the Sea, Varuna, who is responsible for purifying the souls," Agus Indra Udayana said.