A religious indonesian delegation has been visiting the Lyon Catholic University (11/04/17).The Middle East is being torn apart by wars and apart from their heartlands in the Middle East, ISIS and other terrorist groups have affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, and Yemen. And we now have terrorist cells at home, and increased radicalization among many younger European Muslims.Extremist interpretations of Islam motivate radical movements and terrorists throughout the world. By exploiting ignorance and prejudice in the West and the Muslim-majority worlds, radicals are gaining an upper hand in an asymmetric war. Unless these interpretations are challenged and undercut, then these conflicts will grow. The people most equipped to undercut radicals are Muslims. Senior Indonesian Muslims can be and want to be allies in this struggle and they can have strategic importance. As leading Muslim scholar and former Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab told visiting members of our project: “Fifteen years ago you were fighting Al Qaeda. Now you, and we, are fighting ISIS. Fifteen years from now, you will be fighting someone else. But it is the same war, it is the same ideology. You need us, and we need you. We can be friends fighting a common enemy.”With Muslims accounting for roughly 88% of its 250 million people, Indonesia is both the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and the world’s third largest democracy. It has the largest economy in Southeast Asia and in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Indonesia has a rich history of peaceful coexistence and cooperation between people with different religions. It is also home to longstanding organizations and understandings of Islam that reject an Islamic state and favor democracy, religious freedom and peaceful religious co-existence and cooperation.
A Muslim from Europe or America may be about 100 times more likely to join ISIS than is a Muslim from Indonesia. Indeed, in January this year the Atlantic magazine ran a story headlined “ISIS in the World’s Largest Muslim Country: Why are so few Indonesians joining the Islamic State?”
Indonesian Muslims believe that true Islam is a peaceful Islam, and the radical Islam fueled largely in the Middle East is damaging the world and Islam itself. They desperately want to change this narrative. This urgency has led to a partnership between Indonesian Christian and Muslim leaders, but they know that support in the West is a key in turning this into a global movement.
This joint project by Leimena Institute (Indonesia) and Fieldstead and Company (USA) will work with Christian and Muslim leaders and at the grassroots both to strengthen religious freedom in Indonesia and to assist in promoting this model in the Muslim-majority world. This is a unique opportunity to work hand-in-hand with a major growing and moderating force in the Muslim world to bring about fundamental reform. It will have an impact not only theologically but also politically.
The catalyst of this initiative is Ambassador Jakob Tobing, President of the Leimena Institute, a Christian think tank. Considered as the country’s second founding father, he helped lay down democratic foundations by leading the rewriting of Indonesia’s Constitution. Afterwards, during his tenure as Ambassador to South Korea in 2004-2008, he brokered a summit between North Korea’s No. 2 official, Kim Yong-nam, and South Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Haechan. Now he and Indonesian Muslim leaders are collaborating to develop a global alliance to counter religious radicalism.
Currently, we are planning two trips by Indonesian leaders to the US and Europe, leading to a summit in Yogyakarta in August 2017 at the personal invitation of and hosted by the Sultan of Yogyakarta, who is also the Governor of Yogyakarta. Mr. Tobing will visit the US in late November to December of 2016. Then around April-May 2017, he will come with four prominent Indonesian Muslim leaders. In both trips, European leaders are crucial because world politics is highly influenced by their policy decisions. It is in European countries national interest to explore the possibility of a global partnership initiative with Muslims to counter radicalism and promote peaceful religions.
We are asking political leaders and opinion formers to meet with Mr. Tobing this fall and with Indonesian Muslim leaders next spring, and to lend their support and influence to this project.
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