Indian Catholic News

Phones, internet to shut down for Bali Hindu holiday

Religious leaders on Indonesian tourist island appeal for people to respect observance of annual Day of Silence.


Hindu leaders in Bali have won approval from the central government to turn off all internet connections and cellphone coverage for the first time during Nyepi, a Balinese Hindu festival known as the Day of Silence.

It means there will be an almost total 24-hour blackout — hospitals and vital services are exempt — for the annual celebration, which this year falls on March 17 in the tourist hotspot.

Every year the Hindu-dominated province dims the lights and closes its airports for a day as pecalang, or religious police, comb the streets looking for anyone who has defied the ban and strayed outdoors.

On this, a public holiday in Bali, locals are supposed to fast, meditate and practice silence as they symbolically cleanse their souls from 6 a.m. until the same time the following day.

The previous evening, the last day of the year on the local calendar, sees Bali turn into a ghoulish landscape populated by effigies of gods and demons culled from local folklore as eerie parades fill the streets.

The effigies are traditionally burned after Nyepi wraps up.

But modern technology has made enforcing the day's ban on noise, light and television harder as people, especially tourists, are increasingly reluctant to switch off their smartphones, officials say.

I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, chairman of the Bali chapter of Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia, said local Hindu, Muslim, Protestant and Buddhist religious institutions have joined Denpasar Diocese in issuing an appeal to non-Hindus asking them to respect the holy day and exercise religious tolerance.

They also requested people power off their phones for 24 hours.

To make compliance easier, Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia petitioned the Ministry of Communications and Information to disable phone and internet services to Bali.

"We don't want any WhatsApp, Line, Google or mobile phone services operating during Nyepi because they are a disturbance," Sudiana told on March 13.

"People should not be taking selfies and posting them on social media on this holy day."

He urged tourists taking photos in public not to do so for their own safety as it could cause clashes with local people sensitive to having their traditions trampled on.

He said episodes of violence have broken out in previous years.

Not everyone was happy with the blackout with some saying 24 hours was too long as some people need to work.

"We have to keep working and communicating with our business partners, so they should only cut it for a maximum of 12 hours," said privately employed Paulus Wera from St. Peter parish in Negara, Bali.

Some hoteliers expressed concern it could cause problems with guests.

"We who work in this industry would face problems if the internet and mobile phone services are cut off. What would we do if a guest was very sick or badly injured?" asked Gita Natalia, general manager of the Dash Hotel in Seminyak.

Source: UCAN

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