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Indonesian religious leaders pledge to improve interfaith dialogue

Religion can play key role in reaching new UN development goals

Indonesian religious leaders pledge to improve interfaith dialogue

Zulkifli Hasan, chairman of Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly, chats with Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community, during a Nov. 14 interfaith dialogue program in Jakarta. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari)

Leaders from Indonesia's six recognized religions said they hope to improve interfaith dialogue in order to help the country achieve the United Nations' new development goals.

In September, the U.N.'s 193 member states agreed to adopt 17 new development goals to be achieved by 2030. The new goals replace the eight Millennium Development Goals adopted at a summit in 2000. Those expire at the end of 2015.

"All those 17 goals are related to religion, our duties and responsibilities as religions, because the whole goals are problems of humanity, problems of human beings," Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the Center for Dialogue and Cooperation Among Civilizations, said during an interfaith dialogue program held Nov. 14 in Jakarta.

Therefore, "religion must play a significant role in addressing the problems," he said.

The Interfaith Dialogue for Peace and Coexistence program was jointly organized by the center and the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio.

"With this interfaith dialogue, it's hoped that we can collect our thoughts and ideas and then deliver them to our government and the United Nations as well," Syamsuddin said.

Syamsuddin told ucanews.com that communication among different faiths has long been promoted by religious leaders in the country.

He cited a hospital program in Yogyakarta where a Muslim-run facility joined forces with Catholic- and Protestant-run hospitals to run a program to help mothers and children.

Father Agustinus Ulahayanan, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, highlighted the importance of educating people about interfaith dialogue.

"We must not firstly talk about religions or people will fight each other. We must firstly talk about humanity and also about human beings that have the same dignity whatever their religions are," he said.

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State of interfaith dialogue

Meanwhile, Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, praised Indonesia for promoting interfaith dialogue.

Riccardi said peace can be maintained through interfaith dialogue.

"Interfaith dialogue is a weapon. It changes a war into peace, can find the same values in human beings, and shows elements which can unite all people instead of separating them," he said.

Indonesia's six recognized religions are Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Protestantism.

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