More than 4,500 poor couples will celebrate their vows next week in what is being touted as the world’s largest mass wedding reception.
A religious organization and some entrepreneurs have been organizing free weddings for 4,541 poor couples from the Greater Jakarta area every day for the past three months and now plan to gather them all for a reception on Tuesday.
Hana Vandayani, chairwoman for the Pondok Kasih Foundation, said on Wednesday that the free weddings had been organized to help poor couples obtain the proper documents for their marriage.
“It is very sad to know that many members of our society are unable to obtain marriage certificates due to their economic circumstances,” Hana said.
“A marriage certificate is really important because it is needed to get basic social and administration rights both for themselves and also their future children, including documents such as birth certificates and ID cards and also having a clear citizenship status.”
She also said that by having a marriage certificate, the married couples could also have access to social benefits such as education, health, jobs and other public services.
“The weddings had to be done gradually because it is not possible to do them all at once,” Hana said.
However, she said that the 4,541 happy couples will all gather at the Istora indoor sports stadium in Senayan on Tuesday to celebrate their wedding en masse.
Sofia Koswara, the CEO for the new B Channel television station, said the interfaith mass wedding was held to show that Indonesia is a religiously tolerant country.
“After 9/11, and some terror attacks in Indonesia, we really want to show the world that Indonesian Muslims are different. Indonesian Muslims are open minded and tolerant,” Sofia said.
She said that with the married couples coming from the various major religions recognized by the state — Islam, Catholicism, Christian Protestants, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism — the organizers wanted to show that despite being the world’s largest Muslim-populated nation, the different faiths were able to live together in peace.
“Hopefully, it can be an inspiration to other countries to implement similar things,” Sofia said.
However, Sofia said they have not been able to organize interfaith marriages because the law forbids such arrangements unless they are done with the agreement of a court of justice.
The wedding reception will be held at 10 a.m. and will be attended by Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo, the organizers said.