Jakarta Cathedral, Istiqlal Mosque: Symbols of religious tolerance in Indonesia

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Jakarta and the Istiqlal Mosque promote interreligious dialogue in the Muslim-majority country – a sign of fraternity and religious diversity that inspires visitors to Central Jakarta.

Nov 24, 2022

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Indonesia, with its over 17,000 islands, is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country; however, some of its citizens practice other religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity.

At both the national and local levels, interfaith dialogue and relations have impacted both positively and negatively on the life of Indonesians, while the nation continues its efforts to ensure its constitutional provision that guarantees the freedom of religion.

One prominent example of interreligious relations is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (Gereja Santa Maria Pelindung Diangkat ke Surga) in Jakarta, which is located right across from Jakarta’s largest mosque, the Istiqlal mosque.

Their proximity is not coincidental: the mosque was situated close to the cathedral to symbolize the nation’s philosophy of “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (unity in diversity), an idea inscribed on the Indonesian coat of arms, that promotes the desire for a land where all religions co-exist in peace and harmony.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption
Susyana Suwadie, the Public Relations officer of the diocese of Jakarta and the Cathedral Church spoke with Vatican News explaining the landmark historical Cathedral and its relationship to the mosque.

She explained that the work of building a neo-Gothic style cathedral began in 1890 but had to be suspended for lack of funds. The work continued in 1899 and was finally completed and consecrated on 21 April 1901.

The architect behind the building, Dutch Jesuit Fr. Antonius Dikjman, took into account the earthquake-prone nature of the island, building the ceiling with teak from the Indonesian forests and the tower with a mixture of stone and metal.

The church is designed in the shape of a cross, with thick walls made to support teak beams that form the roof. The main altar, tabernacle, and gold cross were made in the Netherlands in the 19th century and installed in 1956. The altar to the left of our lady was completed in 1915, and the altar of St. Joseph to the right was completed in 1922.

The cathedral also sports a museum that traces the origins of Catholicism in the country to Portuguese traders and missionaries such as Jesuit St Francis Xavier, who visited and baptized thousands of locals.

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