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Religious Leaders Call For Nation To Maintain Pluralism

ICC Note: Numerous religious leaders have issued a joint statement calling on Indonesia to maintain religious freedom.

8/22/07 Indonesia (UCAN) — Eighteen religious leaders representing Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Islam and Protestantism have issued a joint message calling for the nation to maintain pluralism.

They released the statement on Aug. 18 following their meeting held to mark the country’s 62nd Independence Day, observed a day earlier. The interreligious Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace (IComRP) organized the meeting.

During a press conference afterward, Theophilus Bela, secretary general of IComRP and a Catholic, read the statement, “A Joint Message: 62 Years of the Republic of Indonesia .”

“We are convinced that the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia will be strong and will progress if the nation guarantees and promotes pluralism as the basis for society,” it said.

Alternatively, progress will come, it continued, if the nation “avoids both horizontal and vertical conflicts among its leaders and society.”

In the country’s 62 years, according to the leaders, the nation had a chance to set down idealistic principles as the strong foundation of “a nation-state” in which every citizen, regardless of religious or ethnic background, could hope to achieve a happy, just, peaceful and prosperous life.

However, they expressed their concern that this freedom remains the privilege of only a few people. “Poverty, ignorance, unemployment, injustice, corruption, abuses of power and foreign domination in political, economic and cultural fields are still problems that limit the nation,” they asserted…

The religious leaders urged the government and all elements of society to work hard and to live honestly and modestly.

They also asked the nation to thank God for the joy of freedom and to pray that the ideal of the declaration of independence — to bring a fair and prosperous life for all people — will be actualized soon. Soekarno, the nation’s first president, proclaimed the country’s independence from the Netherlands on Friday Aug. 17, 1945…

During the press conference, Din Syamsuddin, who heads IComRP, highlighted for reporters that the religious leaders, in their joint message, are encouraging the nation to maintain pluralism.

“We never give up and will continue to gather and to issue such joint messages,” in spite of recurrent religion-based conflicts, he insisted. “We will also establish concrete collaborations.”

According to the chairman of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Muslim organization in the country after Nahdlatul Ulama, acting together in recognition of pluralism is very important to maintaining the country’s unity.

Protestant Reverend Richard Daulay, general secretary of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia , agreed. He said different religious communities in the country will develop only if the nation promotes pluralism.

Meanwhile, Amidan, chairman of Indonesian Ulema (Islamic scholars) Council, asserted: “We need to revive the spirit of freedom promoted by our founding fathers.”