One of Indonesia’s top diplomats has revealed his country’s pride at being guest of honor at a major Saudi heritage festival.
The annual Janadriyah festival, which opened on Thursday, will have world peace as its central theme during its three-week celebration of Saudi lifestyle and culture.
Dr. Alwi Shihab, the Indonesian president’s special envoy to the Middle East and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), told Arab News that it was a “privilege” for his nation to be invited by Saudi Arabia to take part in the event, and said it would further strengthen the bond between the two countries.
Shihab said: “We are proud of this appointment, which many countries aspire to, and we are thankful to the king and to the government of Saudi Arabia.”
“Our contribution to Janadriyah will include introducing the different cultures of Indonesia, with its varied ethnic groups, languages and cuisines,” said Shihab. “It is a privilege to be involved, and we are proud of our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”
He expressed hope that the festival, considered to be the biggest annual arts and cultural event of its kind in the Middle East, would showcase the rich cultural diversity of the two nations and result in more tourist and educational exchanges.
“Indonesia will showcase various performances of traditional culture and Indonesian films. Also, we will introduce the significance of our historical relations with Saudi Arabia since the early days from the first Saudi monarch’s visit to the latest one,” Shihab said.
The Indonesian delegation attending this year’s festival will include the ministers for education and culture, tourism and human development, as well as Puan Maharani, granddaughter of Indonesia’s founding president.
More than 90 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million population are Muslims, and Shihab said he expects the festival to strengthen the religious and historical links between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia was among the first countries in the world to acknowledge Indonesia’s independence in 1945, and there have been regular top-level governmental visits between the two nations ever since.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Saudi Arabia in 2015. During his trip to Indonesia in 2017, King Salman pledged $1 billion for social aid there as part of a $13 billion package of funding for business, education and religion.
Shihab said: “Due to our cultural and religious relations, thousands of students study in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is funding universities and institutes in our country.”
He praised the work of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which he said had put the Kingdom at the center of the world economic stage.
“Especially with the crown prince’s Vision 2030 (reform plan), we can see huge progress in the Kingdom” and “one of the most significant transformations in Saudi Arabia,” said Shihab.
“The two largest Islamic organizations in Indonesia, Al-Muhammadiya and Nahdhat Al-Ulama, each having memberships of more than 100 million people, are headed by prominent scholars who received their education in Makkah.”
He said: “Saudi Arabia was, and will continue to be, the source of Islamic teachings.”