New Indonesian festival celebrates pigs

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LAKE TOBA, Indonesia (AP) — Christian residents in Muslim-majority Indonesia’s remote Lake Toba region have launched a new festival celebrating pigs that they say is a response to efforts to promote halal tourism in the area.

The festival features competitions in barbecuing, pig calling and pig catching as well as live music and other entertainment. Organizers say the events are part of the culture of the largely Christian community that lives in the area.

Lake Toba is one of the destinations that the government is promoting under its “10 new Balis” program, which aims to boost tourism and diversify Southeast Asia’s largest economy. Indonesia is a secular nation, but it is also the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Christians in the Lake Toba area say they are worried that efforts will be made to promote the lake as halal tourism spot. Halal tourism aims to attract Muslim families by meeting their religious and dietary requirements — including no alcohol, certified food and facilities such as segregated swimming pools.

Pigs are considered unclean animals in Islam and the consumption of pork is prohibited. By starting a festival celebrating the animal, organizers say they can both celebrate their own culture and protest plans for halal tourism.

The event, held for the first time late last month, attracted more than a thousand people from nearby villages and some tourists. Organizer say they plan to make it an annual event.

The government has denied it is promoting halal tourism.

Lake Toba, created by a volcanic explosion, is 100 kilometers (62 miles) long, 30 kilometers (19 miles) wide and about half-a-kilometer (1,640 feet) deep.

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