After Indonesia’s North Sumatra mayor Edy Rahmayadi proposed ‘halal tourism’ to attract Muslim tourists in Lake Toba, the Christians in the area have planned a two-day ‘pork festival’ to resist the same. Lake Toba’s tourism industry has taken a hit following the 1997 Asian financial crisis and 2002 Bali bombings and the mayor thought ‘halal tourism’ would boost the industry.
Rahmayadi had proposed building mosques and also getting halal certification for the restaurants. He reportedly even suggested regulating the non-halal practice of slaughtering pigs in public. He had also said that the plan would entail a policy regarding food vendors that sell pork-based food. “If [Muslim] tourists see that, they’ll never come back to Lake Toba again,” Rahmayadi had told reporters.
However, the Bataks, the Christian population which lives in the area, have opposed the move. The residents around Lake Toba kill and feast on the pig to mark occasions like birthdays and weddings.
About 90% population in Indonesia is Muslim while Christians form remaining of the majority of the population. Buddhist and Hindus form small community. The Christians regularly organise pork festival on the Chinese New Year in January which it renamed to ‘Imlek’ after Islamic groups protested.
The Lake Toba was formed 74,000 years ago after a massive supervolcanic eruption, the largest-known eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. It’s now home to a large Christian minority, who is now resisting initial plans to transform the region into a Muslim tourist destination.
With North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi proposing that his administration will promote halal tourism in the area, the native Bataks have now decided to protest in a unique by holding Pork festivals in and around the Lake Toba.
One of the popular dishes of the Christian Batak Toba and Batak Karo of North Sumatra is Babi panggang Toba. The Bataks slaughter the pigs and use them in their entirety for the dish like bones for a clear soup, grilled meat. They also consume a bowl of pig’s blood mixed with spices for the meat to be dipped in.
The Batak have farmed pigs for generations and their cuisine is synonymous with pork. The new decision by the North Sumatra administration has stoked fear among the Bataks who suspect the real agenda behind the halal campaign is to boost “Islamisation” in their areas.
Rapidin Simbolon, the regent of Samosir Island in the middle of Lake Toba, stated he would defy the governor’s “halal and sharia” plan. “The very notion of halal tourism contravenes local cultures and traditions. Samosir is for Indonesia; Samosir is also for the world. We need to preserve its cultural significance,” he said.
Peppa Pig, the long-running British television show for children, has now become the chosen mascot in some areas to represent the fight of non-Muslim Indonesians against attempts by Muslims to enforce their mission to establish halal-based tourism.
Togu Simorangkir, one of the pig festival activists, added that people are invited to participate in activities such as competitions to catch pigs, guess pigs’ weight, clean pig stalls and also to have selfies with pigs. There will be a prize for the best pork steak, as well as stand-up comedy and a music festival.