CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 July 2019

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Komodo dragons and Halal tourism a bad fit bishop says

JAKARTA (UCAN): The Catholic Church on the Indonesian island of Flores, gateway to Komodo National Park and its world famous Komodo dragons, rejected the idea of introducing halal (permissible) tourism, a growing trend among Muslims.
 
Authorities in Labuan Bajo, a fishing town on the western side of Flores in Nusa Tenggara, suggested the idea as a way of boosting tourism but Bishop Silvester San, the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Ruteng, shot it down in a letter dated May 6.
 
“Tourism must be based on local culture and traditions, and in harmony with the preservation of nature and the integrity of creation,” the bishop said in his letter to the director of the Labuan Bajo Tourism Authority.
 
He said it would be a mistake to prioritise any one religion or belief system as tourists from all backgrounds should feel equally welcome. The local government reportedly met to discuss the issue earlier on April 30.
 
Halal tourism mandates that all services must abide by Islamic rules. For example, hotels cannot provide non-halal food or sell alcohol; they must also have separate swimming pools and spa facilities for men and women.
 
Bishop San said the plan has worried the community and could lead to social conflict, which would have the adverse affect of driving tourists away.
 
He said the government should focus on social problems like the marginalisation of local people due to the massive land ownership of investors, a lack of access to beaches, and issues tied to local gangs.
 
Victor Bungtilu Laiskodat, the governor of East Nusa Tenggara, told reporters on May 3, “The concept would only lead to conflict. It should not be applied.” 
 
Matheus Siagian, a local businessman, who works in the tourism industry, said halal tourism could only work in certain areas that meet specific conditions.
 
“Labuan Bajo is obviously not the place for it,” he said. “It has its own identity, with its own natural and cultural richness.”
 
Gregorius Afioma, director of the Labuan Bajo-based Sunspirit for Justice and Peace, a civil society organisation, said it would just provoke trouble between Muslims and other religious groups.
 
He said the seeds of religious conflict have already been sown in the region, with pork vendors often being harassed by Muslims.
 
“Halal tourism would be used to justify this kind of discrimination and anti-social behaviour,” he said.

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