WORLD NEWS
06/15/2017 12:16 EDT

Hindu, Christian, Muslim Soccer Players Pray In Powerful Display Of Unity

“Even though we all come from different religions and ethnicities, we’re all one."

Stringer . / Reuters
Bali United soccer players Ngurah Nanak, Yabes Roni and Miftahul Hamdi pray regarding their religion as they celebrate goals during their match against Perseru Serui FC, in Gianyar, Indonesia June 4, 2017.

After their team scored a goal, three soccer players from Indonesia’s Bali United soccer club celebrated the victory in their own unique ways.

Ngurah Nanak, who is Hindu; Miftahul Hamdi, who is Muslim; and Yabes Roni, who is Christian, paused during a June 4 match in Gianyar, Indonesia, to pray according to the customs of their different religious traditions. 

Together, the trio formed a striking image of interfaith unity ― a reminder of what it looks like when people of different religions work and pray together.

Photographer Miftahuddin Halim snapped a photo of the moment during Bali United’s match against rival Indonesian soccer club Perseru Serui for the local Radar Bali Newspaper. The image was posted to Bali United’s Facebook page, with the caption, “Because different beliefs will not prevent us from achieving the same goals.” It quickly went viral. 

Nanak told Reuters that he didn’t expect the picture to resonate with fans in the way that it did ― he had simply joined the other two team members in prayer after seeing them celebrating. 

“We did not plan it, but fortunately it turned into a positive message,” Nanak told Reuters. “So I hope it will have a good impact on everybody.”

“I never expected it to go viral. Because... we just wanted to show our gratitude to God, because we won that match,” he added.

Although Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, it also has significant minority communities of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and people who follow indigenous religions. 

But in recent years, some in the country are fearful that Indonesia’s image as a society that is tolerant of all religions is under threat.The number of people convicted of blasphemy in Indonesia has spiked over the past decade, as hard-line Islamist groups gain influence in the country’s politics. 

In May, Jakarta’s former governor, a Christian, was found guilty of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to two years in prison. The harsh ruling sparked mass protests in Jakarta.

Human rights groups fear that the verdict was a setback for Indonesia, and the moderate form of Islam that most Muslims practice in the country.

Antara Foto Agency / Reuters
Supporters of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, gather at city hall a day after after a court sentenced him to two years in jail following blasphemy charges, in Jakarta, Indonesia May 10, 2017.

In an interview with local media, the Christian Bali United player Yabes Roni spoke about the importance of interfaith unity.

“Even though we all come from different religions and ethnicities, we’re all one,” Roni said, according to a translation by Vice. “We have to protect the country’s harmony and stay united.” 

Nanak told Reuters this attitude of unity actually helps his teammates work well together.

“Because in a team we are different to one another but it’s important when we are fighting for one team,” he said. 

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