CAIRO - Boasting Islamic and Chinese architecture, Muhammad Cheng Ho Surabaya mosque stands witness to years of peace and interfaith relations between different faiths and ethnicities in East Java.
The unison of two cultures, between Chinese and Islam, represents unity, East Java Deputy Governor Saifullah Yusuf, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday, July 28.
This is a place of worship that symbolizes harmony, love and togetherness despite race or language, he added, referring to the mosque as a symbol of peace among people of different faiths in the province.
In 2002, PITI built the first mosque in Indonesia with Chinese architecture on a large block of land in a quiet area near the heart of Surabaya.
Inspired from Niu Jei Mosque in Beijing, China, being built in 996, the mosque is named after Cheng Ho (Zheng He), a Chinese admiral who is said to have helped spread Islam in the archipelago in the fifteenth century.
The devout Muslim set out on seven exploration missions in all, reaching Sri Lanka, India, the Middle East, Africa and many parts of this country.
Near the mosque vicinity, Susilo Wibowo, who works as a disc jockey at a venue in the East Java capital, found the peace he was looking for.
Converting to Islam three years ago to marry a Javanese Muslim woman, Wibowo, 33, knew it was not easy for his family to accept the marriage.
Even today, inter-faith marriage is hard here, said Susilo, a Chinese-Indonesian whose family members are Christians and Buddhists.
The marriage of people of Chinese descent to a Javanese is still not widely accepted.
Having their first son two years into their marriage, their families finally accepted their union.
Now, every Ramadan, my non-Muslim family come and we break the fast together, Susilo said.
Interfaith harmony in East Java reaches its peak during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
We're a Pancasila country and we should respect other's religion and race, said Mulyono, a fried rice seller within the mosque complex.
Even our independence fighters and the country's founding fathers taught us that.
He said many non-Muslims who bought food from him chose to take their orders home out of respect for the people fasting.
I see that non-Muslims place banners wishing Muslims a good fasting month., he said.
Even the Chinese and churches hand out breaking-of-the-fast snacks and hold charity events for `Eid Al-Fitr.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim state with Muslims making up around 85 percent of its 237-million population.
Chinese Indonesians, previously known as the Indonesian Chinese, are Indonesian descended from various Chinese ethnic groups, particularly Han.
Indonesia's 2010 census reported more than 8.8 million self-identified ethnic Chinese: 3.7 percent of the country's population.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net