JAKARTA: Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, kicked off on Wednesday the Group of 20’s first-ever Religion Forum ahead of the upcoming G20 summit in Bali.
The forum, R20, organized by Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama and the Muslim World League, is part of a series of events initiated under Indonesia’s presidency of the group of the world’s 20 leading economies.
More than 300 religious leaders and scholars from around the globe attended the opening of the two-day meeting.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who inaugurated the forum, called on participants to work together to help resolve global challenges and put an end to wars for the future generation to inherit a peaceful, united world.
“I hope you succeed in building understanding and agreement and will concur on concrete steps so that religion will have a bigger contribution for civilization and humanity, and for a happier world for everyone,” he said, addressing on a large screen the audience in Nusa Dua, Bali — the venue of the G20 Summit, which Indonesia will host on Nov. 15 to 16.
MWL Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa announced in his opening speech the launching of the Building Bridges Between the East and West initiative under the R20 forum’s platform.
“I am pleased to launch the initiative of Building Bridges Between the East and West for a better world understanding, peace, and mutually accepting societies,” the league’s chief said.
“We discussed in this platform many initiatives comprising human diversity, religious diversity, and civilizational diversity on the platform of human brotherhood. This diversity is important. God has wanted it from us in his wisdom.”
Yahya Cholil Staquf, head of Nahdlatul Ulama, said the R20 initiative came from a “sincere concern of all believers” about the future of humanity.
“On behalf of the Nahdlatul Ulama, I want to express our utmost gratitude to the MWL and especially to Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa for the willingness to have a collaboration with NU to co-host this forum for all of you.
“May God’s blessings, guidance, and help always be with us during this event and afterwards, and our joint endeavor contribute in a positive and constructive way for all humanity,” he added.
Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, head of NU think tank Lakpesdam, told Arab News from the summit’s venue that the very fact the forum had been initiated by the organization — which with a membership of 90 million was also the largest Muslim body in the world — highlighted its importance.
“The purpose of this forum is, among others, to promote an honest conversation among religious leaders from diverse faith traditions through rethinking religious doctrines and traditions that hamper dialogue and peaceful coexistence,” he said.
“This is the first time that the meeting of government leaders is preceded by a forum of religious leaders. The goal is to encourage the leaders of G20 to give religion a voice in any decision they make that touches the interest of people, given the importance of religion in the lives of many.”