Thousands of Balinese perform ritual purification at blast site

Saturday, November 16, 2002

BALI, Indonesia -- Hoping to release the souls of the dead killed in last month's deadly nightclub bombing, thousands of Balinese worshippers -- joined by cabinet ministers, ambassadors and victims' relatives -- performed an elaborate "purification" ceremony Friday.

In the midst of the wreckage from the terror attack that fractured life on this normally idyllic resort island, onlookers climbed atop charred vehicles and piles of rubble. Men chanted prayers, children danced and women prepared offerings of food, flowers and sacrificed animals.

"The sadness of Bali is the sadness of the world," Coordinating Minister for Welfare Jusuf Kalla told the worshippers. "Terrorism on Indonesian soil is a clear and present danger."

Three simultaneous bombings on Oct. 12 killed about 190 people, injured hundreds and devastated the island's economic mainstay of tourism.

'Bring back life'

Two ceremonies -- one at the blast site and one at a nearby beach -- were held Friday to "bring life back to Bali and to ask for the forgiveness of God to rebalance the imbalances of the last month," explained Ngurah Gede, one of the organizers.

Smaller ceremonies led by Balinese Hindus also were being held Friday and Saturday at the site of the World Trade Center attack in New York and in London, Sydney, Toronto and San Francisco.

According to Balinese tradition, a tragedy of this magnitude must be countered through a ritual cleansing designed to "place the souls of the victims on the correct plane ... and show them the right way to enter the next cycle," Gede said.

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