Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Faith matters: 7 things Christians, Jews and Muslims share

When it comes to discussing the world’s major religions, the focus is often on division. For our upcoming episode #forchristssake, we take a look at what the three monotheistic religions have in common.

Deutsche Welle, 15 Dec 2014

Jesus Christ is not just an important figure in Christianity. As a prophet, he also features in the Muslim faith - not to mention that he was Jewish. Here are seven lesser known facts about what unites the three major religions.

1. Abraham: the founding father

Painting of the moment when God promises Abraham many descendants.

Abraham is another important figure uniting the three religions. That’s why Christianity, Judaism and Islam are referred to as the Abrahamic religions. Abraham belongs to the Aramaic people and is believed to be the Patriarch of the Jewish people.

According to the Bible, he and his son are said to be the founding fathers of the Arabic people. But wait, there’s more. The Quran also explains (Quran 2:135) that Islam was not a new religion, but rather to be seen as a continuance of Abraham’s original religion.

2. Jerusalem: common holy city

View over Jerusalem's historic city center: the Western Wall (front) and
the golden cupola of The Dome of the Rock.

The historic center of Jerusalem is home to members of all three religions. The Dome of the Rock is holy for Muslims, who worship it as the place from where Muhammad ascended into heaven to receive revelations from God. Jerusalem is also considered the spiritual and ancestral homeland of the Jews. Christians worship Jerusalem as the place where Jesus was buried and resurrected. Among the most important places of Christian worship there is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

3. Scriptures

Old Lutheran Bible

The scriptures belonging to the three Abrahamic religions have similarities too. The Jewish holy book consists of the Tanakh and the Talmud. Christians adopted the Tanakh for their Bible, but call it Old Testament.

The Quran also tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. Muslims believe it represents a spiritual, rather than actual event and that God intervened to save Jesus in what would otherwise have been his final moments (Quran, 4:157).

4. Sing-song

Gospel choir in London

In the past, when churches were teeming with worshippers, a speaking voice alone couldn’t reach those seated in the back pew. The choral tradition of chanting and singing has its roots in the attempt to repair this acoustic deficit. Whether it’s church Gospel music, the chanting tradition in synagogues or the characteristic Muslim call to prayer, all these vocal traditions can be traced back to this primary need to get the message across.

5. Pilgrimage

Muslim people praying at the Mount Arafat near Mecca in October 2014.

Mecca is the famous destination for Muslim pilgrims while Jews journey to Jerusalem and Roman Catholics to Santiago de Compostela, for example.

6. The unspoken name

"Allah" in Arabic lettering in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

In all three religions, there are both common and specific names for “God”. Muslims use the Arabic word “Allah” to refer generally to God, as do Arabic-speaking Christians. But Muslims also use the term to speak specifically about their god. There is also a list with another 99 proper names, each describing one aspect of his nature. A 100th name is also said to exist, but is unspeakable. A popular belief is that Jesus, the Messias (Mehdi), will come and reveal it to the people. Similarly, Christians and Jews also have a specific name for their god - Elohim or Yahweh. However, “ the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered” and was therefore replaced by referring to him, not with a particular name, but using the general terms “Lord” or “God”.

7. Need for space

In an increasingly secularized world, it can be hard for a religious person on the move to find a place to worship. But many public places, like airports, universities and hospitals now offer dedicated interreligious prayer rooms. These are rooms that were jointly created by people of a number of different faiths and where any believer can enjoy a moment of personal reflection. These spaces are neutral in design and tend to avoid displaying symbols of any kind. There is one exception though: the internationally recognized, and pretty uncontroversial, emergency exit signs which hang on the wall.

Related Articles:

"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

" ....Abraham, Father of the Jews

I want to honor Abraham [Abram], born in Ur, which is now part of modern Iraq, and I want to honor his sons, not all born of Sara. The one I wish to speak of is Ishmael. Abraham is Jewish... the great Jewish prophet. Ishmael is his son. There's no way that you could say Ishmael was not Jewish, and he is even to this day. Ishmael was born in Hebron. So in addition, he is very Israeli. Ishmael is a Jew.

Now some would argue, due to how the Jewish lineage is computed by men [mother's side]. But Spirit looks at the DNA and the Akashic lineage, so spiritually, Ishmael is a Jew. He came in to be part of the lineage of the Jews.

He fell from favor even with the Jewish people early on for political reasons. Then Ishmael went on to become that which is the ancestor of all Arabs... the father of Arabia. Therefore, you could say that the Arabs are with Jewish blood, that of Abraham flowing through them. But early on, the Jews cast Ishmael out. So although you have the one God and monotheism, and you have the principle of the love of God and the unity of God, there was a split. The truth was mixed with untruths and, even to this day, there would be a billion Human Beings who would say it was Ishmael and not Isaac who was almost sacrificed at the Temple Mount. They would also say that he is not a Jew.

So what is the truth here? Human Beings were not built to unify. In an older energy on the planet from those days, and even the days that you were born in, the energy laid upon you is for you to separate, not unify. And that is why we call it the old energy. Oh, they were wise men and women who knew better, but it is the old energy that separates and divides, and it is the old energy that has created the divisions of hatred within millions of those who are actually "all Jews."

Muhammad's Beautiful Message of Unity

Let me tell you about Muhammad, the prophet. Muhammad is of the lineage of Ishmael, who is of the lineage of Abraham. Therefore, Muhammad had Jewish blood, so that was his lineage but not necessarily his culture. But his Akashic lineage was from Abraham. [Abraham is the founder of Islam, according to the Quran.]

Muhammad had a beautiful meeting, more than one, with an angelic presence. The angels talked to humanity back then in basic 3D ways. But how many of you have put together that most of the angels in that time who spoke to Human Beings talked to those of Jewish lineage? Like Muhammad, like Moses, like Jesus, like Abraham. For this was part of a set-up of history, part of what makes the Jewish lineage important to the core Akash of humanity, and we have spoken before, "As go the Jews, go Earth." Indeed, there is something there to look at which is important, and it is going to change soon. For in our eyes, the "Jews" are all those in the Middle East.

Muhammad's information from the angel was this: "Unify the Arabs and give them the God of Israel." And he did! The information he had was beautiful and was written down later for his followers. It was all about the incredible love of God and the unity of man. Muhammad the prophet was a unifier, not a separatist.

Long before Muhammad, there came Jesus - Jesus the Jew. He became responsible for what you would call Christianity today. All of his disciples were Jewish. The Rock, Peter the fisherman, who started the Christian church, was Jewish. And we tell you these things to remind you that there's a unity here. Perhaps there is a reason, dear ones, why the 12 layers of DNA have Hebrew names? Indeed, it's in honor of the masters and the lineage, including that of Muhammad, of Ishmael, of Isaac, of Abraham and of Jesus. All of them, part of the original spiritual language [Hebrew].

"Oh," you might say, "there was Sumerian and before that there was Lemurian. There was Sanskrit and Tamil, and many other older languages." Correct, but we're speaking of a language of today - one that you can relate to, that has power, and that is spoken today by the pure lineage of the masters who walked the planet.

So what did humanity do with all this? What did they do with all this sacred information from these Jewish masters? They went to war, because Humans separate things. They don't put them together. So here we are with one beautiful God, creator of all there is, and millions who believe that very thing, yet they are going to war with each other over ideology about what God said, which prophet was best, and which group is in God's favor. That's ancient history, thousands of years old. But it shows exactly what the old energy is all about. ..."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Native Americans try to block French auction of sacred artefacts

Yahoo – AFP, Pascale Mollard-Chenebenoit, 14 Dec 2014

Kachina dolls made by Hopi and Zuni Native American tribes are on display on
 the eve of their sale at the Drouot auction house in Paris on December 14, 2014
(AFP Photo/Thomas Samson)

Paris (AFP) - An auction on Monday of sacred masks and objects in France has stirred fresh anger among Native Americans, with representatives of the Navajo people travelling to Paris to try and halt the latest sale.

The Eve auction house has 270 Native American, Eskimo and pre-Colombian artefacts going under the hammer and the United States embassy has stepped in, urging a stop to the sale of items cherished by the Navajo and Hopi people.

The sale is the fourth since 2013 that the southwestern Hopi people have tried to block of ceremonial masks and headdresses they consider to embody living spirits.

A Puebloan Chakwaina mask (L, circa 
1900/1910) and a Kachina Buffalo mask
 (circa 1910/1920) are on display among
 other artefacts made by Native American
 tribes before their sale at the Drouot
auction house in Paris on December 14, 
2014 (AFP Photo/Thomas Samson)
All previous legal efforts to halt such auctions have failed, although a US foundation last year bought 21 of the masks at a Paris auction to return them to the Hopi people.

A delegation from the Navajo nation led by the tribe's vice-president Rex Lee Jim is in Paris to try and block the sale of eight sacred masks.

"Several representatives came to pray and gather in front of the objects on Saturday," said Eve auctioneer Alain Leroy.

Meanwhile the Hopi have identified over 40 sacred objects up for auction, according to diplomatic sources.

The Hopi tribe and the native peoples defence group Survival International asked a court on Friday to order the release of the sellers' identities.

While the sale of sacred Indian artefacts has been outlawed in the United States since 1990 -- legislation which has allowed the tribe to recover items held by American museums in the past -- the law does not extend to sales overseas.

A letter to the Eve auction house on Friday from Jane Hartley, the US ambassador to France, called for the objects to be pulled from bidding while the Hopi and Navajo tribes "determine if they have recourse to seek their return".

US calls for dialogue

The embassy called for dialogue between the auction house and the tribes.

However the Board of Voluntary Sales "declared this auction legal," said Leroy.

"We have no intention of divulging the name of the sellers or the buyers of the masks. That stays in the private domain."

He said it was legal to own, collect and sell the colourful masks and statuettes.

"This sale is not scandalous because it is not forbidden."

However, images of the masks claimed by the Navajo were no longer available on the auction house website on the eve of the sale.

Anthropomorphic statuettes from Mezcala, Mexico, are pictured among other
 artefacts made by Native American tribes on display before their sale at the Drouot
auction house in Paris on December 14, 2014 (AFP Photo/Thomas Samson)

In April last year, the sale of some 70 Hopi masks fetched around 930,000 euros ($1.2 million) despite international appeals to halt the auction, decried as a sacrilege by activists including Hollywood legend Robert Redford.

Brightly-coloured, intricate "Kachina" dolls and masks or headdresses are valued at thousands of euros.

One of the jewels of the collection is a 40cm-high double mask resembling two bird's heads stacked upon one another valued at up to 60,000 euros.

The 18,000-strong Hopi tribe of Arizona uses the masks in highly-private religious ceremonies where they are worn by dancers.

The Navajo are the largest recognised tribe in the US, and count some 200,000 people living in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

Related Articles:

Killer whales have been thrilling whale watchers this week in Puget Sound. But
they were especially exciting Tuesday when nearly three dozen orcas surrounded
 the ferry from Seattle as it approached the terminal on Bainbridge Island. NOAA
Fisheries Service photo by Candice Emmons

Destructive tsunami also brought peace to conflict-riven Aceh

Yahoo – AFP, December 14, 2014

Destructive tsunami also brought peace to conflict-riven Aceh

Banda Aceh (Indonesia) (AFP) - When a tsunami engulfed Indonesia's Aceh a decade ago, it not only killed tens of thousands of people but also wiped the slate clean in the conflict-racked, poverty-stricken province and paved the way for peace.

The province on the northern tip of Sumatra island was ill-prepared when disaster struck -- in ruins, mired in poverty and with barely any functioning infrastructure after almost three decades of conflict.

Rebels in Aceh had spent years fighting against the central government for an independent state, a conflict that left at least 15,000 people dead, and a heavy military presence kept the area cut off from the outside world.

In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, triggered by a huge undersea earthquake off Sumatra on December 26, 2004, there was only a chilling silence from Aceh and it was not until several days later that the full scale of the destruction became clear.

Almost 170,000 people were killed in the archipelago, the vast majority in Aceh, by far the biggest death toll in any single country. More than 220,000 people died in countries around the Indian Ocean, with Thailand and Sri Lanka also hard hit.

The disaster triggered a huge global relief and reconstruction effort that has been a success in Aceh. But just as importantly, it finally persuaded the rebels and Jakarta to strike a peace deal that has held to this day.

"It's clear that the tsunami hastened the peace process," said Sidney Jones, director of Jakarta-based think-tank the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), adding that "the chances of returning to conflict are very, very, very small".

Prospects for peace were already looking better before the tsunami, with a new government in Jakarta that seemed more determined to resolve the conflict and signs the rebels were growing weary, but the disaster provided the final push.

Under the deal between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and Jakarta, which was signed in Helsinki in August, 2005, the rebels agreed to give up their demands for independence in exchange for greater autonomy.

The GAM fighters laid down their arms and Jakarta withdrew non-local troops and weapons and police from Aceh, and granted an amnesty to rebels and political prisoners.

'Blessing in disguise'

After a decade of post-tsunami reconstruction and nine years of peace, Aceh has been transformed. Provincial capital Banda Aceh is a pleasant, mid-size Indonesian city with few visible scars remaining from the disaster.

While many remain poor, there are signs of increasing affluence that has accompanied years of stability and former rebels have been brought into mainstream politics.

Aceh's governors are now directly elected by the people and both the current one, Zaini Abdullah, and his predecessor, Irwandi Yusuf, previously held senior positions in the rebel movement.

"We had no freedom and lived in fear during the conflict," Ridwan, a bicycle rickshaw driver in the fishing community of Meulaboh, which was one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami, told AFP.

"It's terrible to say that the tsunami was a blessing in disguise, but probably it was," added the 56-year-old, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Nevertheless, problems undoubtedly remain. The former rebels set up their own political party and have kept a stranglehold on power, with critics accusing them of being more concerned with bettering their own lot than helping ordinary Acehnese.

"We've had 10 years of really lousy governance in Aceh," said IPAC's Jones, pointing to problems in the education system, rising infant mortality rates and growing drug problems.

Violence still flares between local political parties formed as part of the peace deal, with several people killed in attacks before elections last year.

Critics also point to the strengthening of sharia laws in conservative Aceh, the only province in Indonesia allowed to implement Islamic regulations, such as one passed in September that makes gay sex punishable by 100 lashes of the cane.

For many Acehnese, there has also been a failure to bring closure after years of conflict, Amnesty International said in a report last year, noting that promises to set up a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission had not been honoured.

While a reintegration programme helped many former rebels, some have failed to benefit and a tiny number are so disillusioned they want to keep fighting the authorities, although serious violence is rare nowadays.

"We will keep this guerilla movement alive and fight the government until there is justice for ex-combatants and the people of Aceh," Nurdin Ismail Amat, a former GAM fighter, told AFP.

Related Article:

"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) - (Text version)

“... Japan

Let us talk for a moment about Japan, and then I'll close the day of messages. There are thousands of souls on my side of the veil and they're just fine, more than fine. We have spoken so often of what happens at the Wind of Birth. I told you, before they even came in, they saw the potential. I looked in their eyes. "You may not last long. You know that, don't you? You're coming into this planet and you may not be here very long. And the passing that you will have with your family will not be pleasant, if any ever are. Why would you come in anyway?" I want to tell you what they said. When a soul has the mind of God, it understands fully what generates peace and what generates energy shift. You can clearly see what generates what the planet needs the most when you are about to arrive. So they said, "We're going to be part of one of the biggest compassion events the planet has ever seen." One earthquake, one tsunami. All of those who left that day will change the earth forever. And it already has. It was the same for the last tsunami as well.

Every single one of them on my side of the veil is getting ready to come back. Many old souls were involved, and just for a moment, if they could give you any information, if they could talk to you right now, if they could speak your language and look into your eyes, they would thank you for your compassion for them and those who are left. And they would say, "Be with those family members who are still alive. Enter their hearts every day and give them peace and keep them from crying, because we're OK."

Nuclear Power Revealed

So let me tell you what else they did. They just showed you what's wrong with nuclear power. "Safe to the maximum," they said. "Our devices are strong and cannot fail." But they did. They are no match for Gaia.

It seems that for more than 20 years, every single time we sit in the chair and speak of electric power, we tell you that hundreds of thousands of tons of push/pull energy on a regular schedule is available to you. It is moon-driven, forever. It can make all of the electricity for all of the cities on your planet, no matter how much you use. There's no environmental impact at all. Use the power of the tides, the oceans, the waves in clever ways. Use them in a bigger way than any designer has ever put together yet, to power your cities. The largest cities on your planet are on the coasts, and that's where the power source is. Hydro is the answer. It's not dangerous. You've ignored it because it seems harder to engineer and it's not in a controlled environment. Yet, you've chosen to build one of the most complex and dangerous steam engines on Earth - nuclear power.

We also have indicated that all you have to do is dig down deep enough and the planet will give you heat. It's right below the surface, not too far away all the time. You'll have a Gaia steam engine that way, too. There's no danger at all and you don't have to dig that far. All you have to do is heat fluid, and there are some fluids that boil far faster than water. So we say it again and again. Maybe this will show you what's wrong with what you've been doing, and this will turn the attitudes of your science to create something so beautiful and so powerful for your grandchildren. Why do you think you were given the moon? Now you know.

This benevolent Universe gave you an astral body that allows the waters in your ocean to push and pull and push on the most regular schedule of anything you know of. Yet there you sit enjoying just looking at it instead of using it. It could be enormous, free energy forever, ready to be converted when you design the methods of capturing it. It's time.

So in closing, do you understand what you're seeing? You're seeing intelligent design, quantum energy and high consciousness. You are seeing changes in Human nature. You're seeing countries putting things together instead of separating. You are seeing those who don't want war and instead want peace, good schools for their children, safety in their streets and a say in their government. We told you it was going to happen this way. I want my partner to teach these things that I have said in his 3D lectures for awhile. Many won't be able to know these things otherwise.  …”

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dance Troupe Seeks to Revive and Reintroduce Sacred Bali Performance Art

Jakarta Globe, Maya Martini, Dec 14, 2014

Legong dancers during the 20th anniversary celebration of Bengkel Tari
Ayu Bulan. (JG Photo/Maya Martini)

On the last day of November this year, a group of dancers brought a taste of Bali to the bustling capital of Jakarta. Soothing sounds of traditional instruments gamelan filled the room, and candles and flowers gave life to the otherwise gloomy and grey day. It was a performance of Bali’s traditional Legong dance at the Goethe Institute Menteng in Central Jakarta, brought by a group of dancers hoping to revive a dance long forgotten — one that has long survived quietly within the confines of obscurity.

The dance was part of the 20th anniversary celebration of Bengkel Tari Ayu Bulan, a community dedicated to Legong dancers and lovers.

“Legong is a poetry that is rooted from an ancient dance called Gambuh and the sacred trance dance called Sanghyang,” said Bulantrisna Djelantik, also known as Biyan Bulan, founder of Tari Ayu Bulan Bengkel and Studio. Biyan Bulan herself is a distinguished maestro of the Legong dance who has also introduced the dance beyond Indonesia with the help of dancers from Bengkel Tari Ayu Bulan.

“Now, it has become one of the classical Balinese dances with a complex vocabulary of motions full of vibration, alternately bending and breaking, gentle and strong and bound in a frame of rules.” she said.

“Kemilau Legong” consisted of four types of dances, three of which fall under the “non-dramatic” category. The first is a dance named Legong Kupu-kupu Carum, which symbolizes the short and meaningful life of a butterfly. The second, named Legong Kuntir, depicts a scene from the epic Ramayana story, while the third, Legong Kuntul, depicts a flock of a common, slender and white bird called Kuntul. The final dance, which falls under the “dramatic dance” and was choreographed by Biyan Bulan herself, is called Legong Smaradahana – a story of chaos in heaven when evil spirits tormented heavenly being.

“I have seen numerous traditional Bali dances but this one was different” said Hans, a guest at the event said. “The spirit and passion of the dancers could be felt throughout the room, and the atmosphere made me feel like I was transported to Bali.”

Despite having originated in Bali centuries ago, the dance remains unpopular and is rarely seen on stage because its performance is commonly limited to sacred rituals. The dance, which is said to have up to 22 varieties, currently has only 12 preserved varieties.

“The public mainly knows ‘Keraton,’ one variety of the legong dance,” head of the event’s organizing committee Putri Minangsari said. “Bengkel Tari Ayu Bulan aims to reintroduce the uniqueness of Legong to the pulbic, especially to the younger generations to keep it from perishing.”

Bengkel Tari Ayu Bulan today has 22 active Legong dance performers who come from a variety of professions and ethnic groups in Indonesia, all of whom dance with one aim: to preserve the traditional dance and to add color to the local performing arts culture in the process.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Jakarta Is Stepping Up Efforts to Go Green

Parks and Recreation: Indonesia’s capital hopes to undergo an environmental makeover for the younger generation

Jakarta Globe, Lenny Tristia Tambun, Dec 13, 2014

The Jakarta administration aims to turn 30 percent of the capital into green
space. (Antara Photo/M. Agung Rajasa)

Jakarta. Jakarta is planning to build six parks that will cater specifically to children by March next year.

Veronica Tan, the wife of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and chairwoman of the city’s Family Welfare Association (PKK), announced the city had prepared land spanning 1,500 to 4,000 square meters for each park.

“Our target is to have these parks ready in three months,” Veronica said, adding that the administration would build one children’s park for each of Jakarta’s five municipalities and one district.

“The six parks will be a pilot project. In the future we will built at least two children’s parks for each urban ward.”

The parks, she said, would have to be in residential areas and inaccessible by motor vehicles.

“We aim to build a public space where children can do a variety of activities; so they have a healthy alternative to staying indoors, playing computer or watching television,” she said.

Veronica added that the PKK was lobbying the city for authority to manage the parks as the association has already drawn up plans to establish cooperatives or children’s health stations in each park.

“Another crucial aspect to this project is maintaining the parks, so they won’t be vandalized or abandoned,” she said.

Speaking at a Bank DBS Indonesia event where more than a thousand volunteers helped revamp the Kahfi Park in Ciganjur, South Jakarta, Veronica called on private donors to be more proactive in creating public spaces in the city.

“The government alone can’t make [the plan] happen,” Veronica said.

Speaking at the same event, Jakarta Parks and Cemeteries Agency chief Nandar Sunandar said the government planned to add another 50 hectares of parks by 2017 by converting 30 percent of the capital into green, open spaces, or RTH.

“RTH in Jakarta is still very scarce. Growth [of green spaces] in the last 10 years has been slow, from 9.85 percent to a little over 10 percent,” he said.

Basuki’s administration has been active in improving the city’s poor air quality and lack of public spaces, enacting in 2012 a city regulation that mandates 30 percent of Jakarta area to be green open spaces.

Nandar said the city also intended to turning South Jakarta into the “lungs” of the city by concentrating much of its efforts to building more parks in the municipality. South Jakarta consists mostly of residential areas but is rapidly growing into a commercial and business center.

It is unclear whether this drive would translate into stricter zoning regulations.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tourism Minister in Investment Plea as ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ Beckons

Jakarta Globe, Dec 11, 2014

Lounge chairs are placed along the shore of Gili Air Island, in East Nusa
Tenggara on Dec. 9, 2014. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)

Jakarta. Indonesia’s tourism minister called for more investment in everything from ports to dive operators on Thursday as he pushed for private and public funding to reach the ambitious goal of doubling the archipelago’s tourist visitors by 2019.

“We need investment, especially in hotel rooms,” Arief Yahya told an audience of tourism industry professionals at Indonesia Tourism Investment Day 2014.

Arief emphasized the need to boost the number of hotel rooms in parts of the country where occupancy rates are high, while official data show the need for some 15,000 restaurants as well as niche facilities including dive operators and big-ticket infrastructure items like ports.

“I have sent a letter of the list of 88 tourism regions in Indonesia to the transport minister and public works minister,” Arief said. “I think that investment in tourism is better than investments in manufacturing.”

Indonesia has underperformed as a tourist destination relative to its regional peers, despite having a preponderance of outstanding natural beauty and a currency that cycles between friendly and very friendly, relative to the currencies of its top five visitors; Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, China and Japan.

Indonesia took a leaf out of the Malaysian book in 2011 with the launch of the “Wonderful Indonesia” campaign, which replaced the dry “Visit Indonesia” promotion of previous years. Tourist arrivals jumped 9 percent in its first year.

Indonesia stamped 8.8 million tourist visas in 2013, a 10 percent increase on the previous year. But again too much of Indonesia’s tourism fortunes were tied up in Bali, which welcomed 3.27 million people last year — 826,000 of them from Australia.

Bali has much to offer, but it has had much of it for several years now. It has one of the world’s best restaurants, Mozaic, in the hilltown of Ubud, as well as an abundance of world-class beach resorts in the island’s south and a long list of attractions, from its Hindu temples to crowded surf breaks.

But much of the rest of the archipelago remains too far off the beaten path for most travelers — something the ministry will need to help address if Indonesia is to close the gap on the more than 25 million visitors neighboring Malaysia achieved in 2012.

Tourism industry professionals have long pointed to Indonesia’s unwelcoming visa system as a key barrier to opening up less frequented destinations.

Most tourists pay $35 on arrivals in the country and have the right to stay for 30 days. Renewing a tourist visa for an additional 30 days can be done inside the country, but the process can be lengthy and discourage people from staying longer and venturing out to areas of natural beauty such as Flores and Raja Ampat in the east, and Lake Toba and Sabang in the west.

Infrastructure remains a concern among hoteliers and tour operators. Lake Toba, for example, the site of the world’s largest volcanic eruption 25 million years ago and the world’s largest volcanic lake, is desperately short of foreign visitors — due in part to the five hours it takes to drive the 160 kilometers from the nearest airport in Medan.

Other parts of the country — from the dive resorts of Wakatobi and Derawan to national parks like Bromo in East Java — remain relatively difficult to reach, and visitors are less likely to explore multiple destinations because of Indonesia’s visa restrictions.

The combination of factors affecting Indonesia’s tourism potential has a negative impact on an important source of foreign currency — around the $10 billion mark in 2013. The sector is also a productive source of employment.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has worked with the Ministry of Tourism in recent years to improve the way data are collected, as a means of boosting the quantity and quality of jobs in the sector. A recent document issued by the Geneva-based organization called for a focus on poverty reduction and the creation of sustainable jobs.

Realistic ambition?

Arief has set an ambitious target of 20 million foreign tourists by 2019, indicating a 127 percent increase in the next five years. By comparison, foreign arrivals rose 37 percent in the previous five years.

Tourism officials and industry executives have long credited Malaysia with running a gold-standard marketing campaign to attract more visitors. The “Malaysia, Truly Asia,” campaign launched in 1999 was responsible for boosting occupancy rates across the country’s beach resorts and inland hotels.

While Malaysia benefits from a capable road network and more efficient transportation, Indonesia has more noteworthy attractions across its sprawling archipelago.

But Arief’s target over the next five years will largely remain dependent on the currency outlook and attracting visitors from holiday-hungry China. Easing visa restrictions would help in bringing in more tourists to the country.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jokowi: Papua Railway Development to Start in 2015

Jakarta Globe, Ezra Sihite, Dec 08, 2014

A railroad under construction in East Jakarta on Dec. 3, 2014. (Antara
Photo/Irene Renata)

Jakarta. The government will start building a railroad network in Papua next year, President Joko Widodo promised on Monday.

“The railway development in Papua will start next year. We want the provincial development agency to support us so the development can start as soon as possible,” Joko said on Monday during a teleconference with district heads and governors from Papua and Maluku, both in the east of the country. “We want the railways to reach higher areas in Papua.”

A preliminary study is set to be concluded in six months and building can start immediately afterward, the president said, adding that old railways in Biak that are no longer in use will also be reactivated from next year.

Besides railways, Joko wants to revamp the roads in the outlying parts of the country as well.

“We want the railway development to start immediately,” he said. “It’s time the eastern part of Indonesia receives more attention from the central government. We want to start developing together, maintain the unity [of the nation], and manage our border areas.”

Globe Asia’s Power 50 List: Most Influential Indonesians in 2014

A changing political constellation

Jakarta Globe, Shoeb K Zainuddin and Alberto Weldison, Dec 08, 2014

Every country, just like a corporation, needs constant renewal. New leadership brings
 new ideas, new energy and a new focus on driving progress. Indonesia has a new
 president and a new cabinet with high hopes placed in them by the public. The 2014
 GlobeAsia Power 50 list reflects this changing political landscape and identifies those
 individuals who will have a say in the country’s direction over the next 12 months.
(Investor Daily Photo/David Gitarosa)

It took President Joko Widodo less than a month in office to make his first major decision.

By cutting fuel subsidies by more than 30%, the president not only freed billions of dollars for infrastructure development and other essential government spending, he sent out a strong message that he has the courage to take unpopular but vital decisions that are in the best interest of the nation.

Fresh from his return from China where he met with Asia-Pacific leaders such as US President Barrack Obama and Chinese premier Xi Jinpeng and the G-20 summit in Australia, the president moved swiftly on the domestic front. The fuel price hike was widely expected but not guaranteed and the president himself made the announcement, rather than delegating it to one of his ministers.

A few days later, he inaugurated Basuki Tjahaja Purnama as the governor of Jakarta despite heavy opposition from the Jakarta City Council and politicians from the Greater Indonesia Movement (Gerindra). Not an easy start for the new president.

President Joko Widodo’s rise to the apex of Indonesia’s political structure has been nothing short of spectacular. Born in a river shantytown in Solo, Central Java, Jokowi, as he is widely known, is the first businessman to become president of Indonesia.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla also comes from an entrepreneurial background, which explains the fact that there are nine former chief executives in the new cabinet.

Jokowi’s rise will, over a period of time, alter the face of Indonesian politics and in the process also change the faces that appear on the GlobeAsia Power 50 list. Over the past five years, the list has been dominated by politicians close to former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

While the 2014 Power 50 list still features some old-timers such as Megawati Sukarnoputri, Aburizal Bakrie and Amien Rais, a host of new names now appears on the list. Apart from Jokowi, the list includes Sofyan Djalil, the new chief economics minister; Bambang Brodjonegoro, the Minister of Finance; Rini Soemarno, the Minister of State-Owned Enterprises; Tjahjo Kumolo, Minister of Home Affairs; Anies Baswedan at Basic Education and Culture and Susi Pudjiastuti as Minister for Maritime and Fisheries.

Other newcomers to the list include Pratikno, the former rector of Gajah Mada University (UGM) and a supporter of Joko Widodo throughout his presidential bid. He will now play a substantial role in formulating the new administration’s policies, setting targets and re-organizing government structures as the State Secretary.

It remains to be seen if these new faces will be on the 2015 Power 50 List as they face significant challenges in the coming months.  There is no doubt however that a shift in the country’s political constellation is underway and will likely accelerate in the coming years as the old actors fade into the background.

The new government has its work cut out. The president has outlined his economic agenda, which is premised on improving maritime infrastructure and providing better public services. This was clearly laid out by during his recent foreign trips.

“The first and foremost would be how to reduce inequality and at the same time reduce poverty,” Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro told Bloomberg in Brisbane recently. “We believe by doing infrastructure development we not only create growth but also create better equality,” he added.

Boosting growth

Such balancing acts will become commonplace for the new government and administration. According to former tourism minister Mari Elka Pangestu, raising fuel prices is only a small part of what the new government needs to do to achieve optimal balance between spending and revenue generation; and between empowering local businesses and remaining open to foreign investments.

“The demographic bonus and urbanization will drive growth over the next few years with 90 million more people living in cities,” she noted. “Destructive technologies will provide new sectors of growth worth around $625 billion in value.”

The key to sustainable growth will be improving connectivity and increasing power supply. This is where new Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said and Indroyono Soesilo, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs will play key roles. The government has plans to allow 100% foreign ownership of power plants over 100 MW and removing PLN’s monopoly over power transmission.

The ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources is also said to be ready to set up a one-stop shop for the power sector so private investors can get all their paper work done quickly.

An efficient and effective government, starting from the very top, is crucial to the country’s economic progress. President Jokowi will have to lead by example, rolling up his sleeves and going down to the ground. His ministers are already following in his footsteps, conducting “blusukan” or announced visits to their staff.

“Jokowi’s strength is that he can act as a manager and share power with his subordinates,” said Indria Samego a professor from the Indonesia Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

The rise of the middle class

While the Power 50 list is dominated by politicians and government leaders, it also has a healthy sprinkling of business leaders. This is primarily because private business owners and entrepreneurs are going to play an increasing role in determining the economic direction of the nation.

With growing consumption, big business owners such as Anthoni Salim from the Salim Group, Chairul Tanjung from Trans Corp and Budi Hartono from Djarum Group will define consumption trends. How they direct investments and create new products will ensure that Indonesia’s industrial base remains competitive and that the country can compete on the global stage.

The Power 50 List 2014

1 Joko Widodo – President of Indonesia.
2 Megawati Soekarnoputri – Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) chairwoman.
3 Jusuf Kalla – Vice President of Indonesia and former Golkar party chairman.
4 Aburizal Bakrie – Golkar party chairman.
5 Zulkifli Hasan – The speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly.
6 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – Head of Democratic Party and former president.
7 Hatta Rajasa – Head of the National Awakening Party (PAN).
8 Amien Rais – Former speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly, or MPR.
9 Prabowo Subianto – Head of Gerindra party.
10 Setya Novanto – The speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR).
11 Surya Paloh – Nasdem Party leader.
12 Pratikno – State Secretary.
13 Hamdan Zoelva – Head of Constitutional Court, or MK.
14 BJ Habibie – Former President.
15 Sofjan Djalil – Coordinating Minister for the economy.
16 Puan Maharani – Coordinating Minister for Welfare, Megawati’s daughter.
17 Irman Gusman – The Regional Representative Council (DPD) speaker.
18 Harry Azhar Aziz – Head of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK).
19 Luhut Panjaitan – Jokowi’s senior adviser.
20 Bambang Brodjonegoro – Finance Minister.
21 Yasona Hamongan Laoly. Minister of law and Human Rights.
22 Rini M Sumarno – State Owned Enterprise Minister.
23 Sofjan Wanandi – Former Apindo Chairman.
24 Tjahjo Kumolo – Home Affairs Minister.
25 Chairul Tanjung – Founder CT Corp, former Coordinating Minister for the economy.
26 Retno Marsudi – Foreign Minister.
27 Andi Wijajyanto – Cabinet Secretary.
28 Sudirman Said – Energy and Mineral Resources Minister.
29 KH Mustofa Bisri – NU leader
30 Dien Syamsuddin – Muhammadiyah leader
31 Tedjo Edy Purdjianto – Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs
32 Andrinof Chaniago – National Development Planning Chief.
33 Indroyono Soesilo – Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs.
34 Sutarman – National Police Chief.
35 Abraham Samad – Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman.
36 Wiranto – Hanura party leader.
37 Ryamizard Ryacudu – Defense Minister.
38 Rachmat Gobel – Trade Minister.
39 Saleh Husin – Industry Minister.
40 Suryo Bambang Sulisto – The Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) Chairman
41 Hamengkubuwono – Sultan and governor of Yogjakarta
42 M Reza – Oil trader
43 Anies Baswedan – Education and Culture Minister
44 Nila F Moeloek – Health Minister
45 Susi Pudjiastuti – Maritime and Fisheries Minister
46 Budi Hartono – Djarum Group
47 Anthoni Salim – Salim Group
48 Franky Wijaya – Sinar Mas
49 Tommy Winata – Artha Graha Group
50 Basuki Tjahaya Purnama – Jakarta Governor

The story was first published on Globe Asia’s December 2014 edition.