The Jakarta Post
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on religious leaders to band together and fight against extremism and faith-based violence by encouraging open dialog to reach a more harmonious society.
'Religious leaders have a pivotal role to play in establishing a harmonious society by fostering dialog, teaching their followers about reconciliation with and understanding for other communities,' Ban said in the plenary session of the Fifth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday.
Ban said that the world was currently facing terrorism, extremism and violence in the name of religion, including those acts conducted by the Islamic State (IS) and Boko Haram movements.
'It's not religion. It's just individuals who took religion wrongly,' he told the two-day congress themed 'The Dialogue of Religious Leaders and Politicians in the Name of Peace and Development'.
To develop more harmonious societies, Ban also urged religious leaders to open their eyes to other communities, particularly minority groups. The congress was attended by participants representing organizations from different religions ' Islam, Catholicism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism ' and 29 different countries, including Iran, India, China, Malaysia, France, Russia and the Vatican City.
Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of the country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), was invited to participate in the congress but cancelled his visit without any reason, a government source said.
In the plenary session, assistant to the secretary-general of the World Muslim League Abdulrahman Abdullah M. al-Zaid asked political and religious leaders to give attention to problems faced by Palestinians and Rohingya and to pay attention to the fight against extremist organizations such as IS and Boko Haram.
'We need to act together to promote peace and security, preventing human rights violations and discrimination, including those against Palestinians and Rohingya,' Al Zaid told the congress.
Thousands of Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar are now stranded and living in shelters in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. World leaders have repeatedly asked Myanmar to stop the violence and urged the government to accept them as citizens.
Besides the Rohingya issue, Indonesia is also facing the IS problem. Hundreds of Indonesians have reportedly joined the movement and some organizations, including one in Poso, Central Sulawesi, have expressed their support for IS.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said religious leaders should support the fight against international terrorism organizations and faith-based violence.
'To resolve the problem, the religious leaders should begin a dialog and reject any kind of violence, making the world better and more tolerant,' Nazarbayev, who initiated the first congress in 2003, told the plenary session.
Citing a Gallup survey that stated 60 percent of the world's population still follows a religion, he was convinced that religion could play a significant role in establishing a peaceful society. Similarly, Jean-Louis Tauran of the Vatican City emphasized the importance of honest dialog and cooperation among political and religious leaders.
'To have a peaceful world, political and religious leaders should cooperate and set up an open dialog,' Touran said.
Meanwhile, Bishop Richard Atkinson of the Church of England told the religious leaders to reach concrete progress during their meeting.
'We will just deceive ourselves if we have the politically correct polite dialogue without affecting complex issues. I would like to say that the tasks should be appropriate to the level of our representation here,' said the bishop.
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