The Inspiring Grandeur of Istiqlal Mosque
Located at Jalan Taman Wijaya Kusuma in Central Jakarta, on the north eastern corner of the Merdeka Square, almost right across Jakarta’s Catholic Cathedral, the grand Istiqlal Mosque is the largest mosque in South East Asia both in structure and capacity, as it can accommodate congregations of up to 120,000 people.
First opened to the public by Indonesia’s first President, Soekarno, on 22 February 1978, the grand mosque stands out with its 45m diameter dome and tall minarets. As a perfect reflection of Indonesia’s high religious tolerance, the mosque was in fact designed by Christian architect from North Sumatra, Frederich Silaban in 1954. This national mosque of Indonesia was built to commemorate Indonesian Independence, as the nation's gratitude for God's blessings: the Independence of Indonesia. Hence the name "Istiqlal", an Arabic word for "Independence".
During his brief 18 hours visit to Indonesia on 9th and 10th. November 2010, US President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made a special visit to the Istiqlal mosque. The US president was told by the mosque “Imam” or leader that during Christmas mass, the mosque’s parking lot is used by the Cathedral’s congregation across the road and vice-versa during Ied prayers. Later President Obama praised the Istiqlal Mosque as a symbol of religious tolerance which characterizes Indonesia and Indonesians, inspiring the world.
Photo by Sunaryo Kusumo/www.indonesia.travel