Indonesia, Muslim World League hold first-ever G20 religion forum

Indonesia, Muslim World League hold first-ever G20 religion forum
Religious leaders gather at the first-ever G20 Religion Forum in Bali, Indonesia on Nov. 2, 2022. (G20 Religion Forum)
Short Url
Updated 13 November 2022

Indonesia, Muslim World League hold first-ever G20 religion forum

Indonesia, Muslim World League hold first-ever G20 religion forum
  • R20 forum part of series of events staged by Indonesia ahead of G20 Summit
  • Indonesian president urges dialogue to help solve global challenges, end wars

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.”


Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions

Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions
Updated 02 February 2023

Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions

Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions
  • Russia vows to push Ukrainian army back in response to longer-range rockets

MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday said the United States was directly involved in explosions that severely damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea last year.
Lavrov provided no evidence for his claim. President Vladimir Putin has previously accused Britain of blowing up the pipelines, which London denied.
In an interview on state TV, Lavrov also said the West was lying about Russia’s refusal to negotiate over Ukraine and was trying to turn Moldova, Georgia and former Soviet states in Central Asia against Moscow.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russian forces would respond to the delivery of longer-range Western weapons to Kyiv by trying to push Ukrainian forces further away from its borders to create a safe buffer zone.
In the interview on state TV, Lavrov said everybody wanted the conflict in Ukraine — which Moscow calls a “special military operation” — to end, but that the West’s support for Kyiv was playing an important role in how Russia approached the campaign.
Two US officials told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington was preparing a new package of military aid worth $2.2 billion which is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time.
.”..We’re now seeking to push back Ukrainian army artillery to a distance that will not pose a threat to our territories,” said Lavrov.
.”..The greater the range of the weapons supplied to the Kyiv regime the more we will have to push them back from territories which are part of our country.”
Longer-range rockets would allow Ukraine — which has said it plans to retake all of its territory by force, including annexed Crimea — to strike deeper into Russian-held territory.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that such rockets would escalate the conflict but not change its course.
President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of Russian troops into Ukraine in February last year. He has said the operation was needed to protect Russia’s own security and to stand up to what he has described as Western efforts to contain and weaken Moscow.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of waging an illegal war designed to expand its territory.


EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’

EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’
Updated 02 February 2023

EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’

EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’
  • EU countries have staunchly backed Ukraine since Moscow invaded in February
  • In June last year, Ukraine was granted EU candidate status

KYIV: European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she had arrived in Kyiv with a team of commissioners on Thursday, a day before a Ukraine-European Union summit in the war-torn country.
“Good to be back in Kyiv, my 4th time since Russia’s invasion.... We are here together to show that the EU stands by Ukraine as firmly as ever. And to deepen further our support and cooperation,” she wrote in a tweet.
She is accompanied by 15 commissioners, including the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
The Commission described the visit as a “strong symbol” of European support for Ukraine “in the face of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression.”
EU countries have staunchly backed Ukraine since Moscow invaded in February, by hitting Russia with waves of economic sanctions and by sending weapons to Kyiv.
In June last year, Ukraine was granted EU candidate status.


Pakistan mosque suicide bomber ‘was in police uniform’: police chief

Pakistan mosque suicide bomber ‘was in police uniform’: police chief
Updated 02 February 2023

Pakistan mosque suicide bomber ‘was in police uniform’: police chief

Pakistan mosque suicide bomber ‘was in police uniform’: police chief
  • Hundreds of police were attending afternoon prayers in the police headquarters’ mosque when the blast erupted

The suicide bomber who killed 101 people inside a mosque at a police headquarters in Pakistan was wearing a police uniform and helmet when he staged the attack, a police chief said Thursday.
“Those on duty didn’t check him because he was in a police uniform... It was a security lapse,” Moazzam Jah Ansari, the head of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province police force, told a news conference.
Police have a “fair idea” about who the bomber was after matching his head found at the scene with CCTV images.
“There’s an entire network behind him,” Ansari said, explaining that the bomber had not planned Monday’s assault in northwest Peshawar alone.
Hundreds of police were attending afternoon prayers in the police headquarters’ mosque when the blast erupted, causing a wall to collapse and crush officers.
Authorities are investigating how a major security breach could happen in one of the most tightly controlled areas of the city, housing intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus, and next door to the regional secretariat.
It is Pakistan’s deadliest assault in several years and the worst since violence began to surge again in the region after the Afghan Taliban’s takeover in Kabul in 2021.


Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes

Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes
Updated 02 February 2023

Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes

Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes
  • The RBA said it would consult Indigenous people on a new design that “honors the culture and history of the First Australians”
  • Australia is a constitutional monarchy, a democracy with King Charles III as its head of state

SYDNEY: Australia will remove the British monarch from its banknotes, replacing the late Queen Elizabeth II’s image on its $5 note with a design honoring Indigenous culture, the central bank said Thursday.
The decision to leave her successor King Charles III off the $5 note means no monarch would remain on Australia’s paper currency.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said it would consult Indigenous people on a new design that “honors the culture and history of the First Australians.”
Queen Elizabeth’s death on September 8 last year was marked by public mourning in Australia, but some Indigenous groups also protested against the destructive impact of colonial Britain, calling for the abolition of the monarchy.
Australia is a constitutional monarchy, a democracy with King Charles III as its head of state. A referendum proposing a switch to a republic was narrowly defeated in 1999.
The central bank said its decision was supported by the center-left Labor government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who favors an eventual move to an Australian republic.
The new banknote would take “a number of years” to be designed and printed, it said, with the existing $5 note remaining legal tender even after the new design is in people’s hands.
The RBA’s move was hailed by the nation’s republican movement, which noted that Indigenous people predated British settlement by 65,000 years.
“Australia believes in meritocracy so the idea that someone should be on our currency by birthright is irreconcilable, as is the notion that they should be our head of state by birthright,” said Australian Republic Movement chair Craig Foster.
“To think that an unelected king should be on our currency in place of First Nations leaders and elders and eminent Australians is no longer justifiable at a time of truth-telling, reconciliation and ultimately formal, cultural and intellectual independence.”
The Australian Monarchist League said the decision was “virtually neo-communism in action.”
“Before a referendum is held on whether the people want to retain the King as sovereign or opt for a President, this government has arbitrarily moved to discard the King’s head from Australia’s five dollar note,” it said in a statement.
“It is certainly not Australian democracy.”
A British monarch has featured on Australian banknotes since 1923 and was on all paper bills until 1953, the year of Elizabeth II’s coronation.
The queen’s face adorned the 1-pound banknote and then the new $1 note from 1966.
That first $1 banknote also included imagery of Aboriginal rock paintings and carvings based on a bark painting by Indigenous artist David Malangi Daymirringu.
The queen’s face has peered up at Australians from the polymer $5 note since 1992.
But the central bank’s governor Philip Lowe announced three months ago that it had begun talking with the government about whether to forego replacing the queen’s image with a portrait of King Charles III.
Australian coins, which are issued by the Royal Australian Mint, currently feature an image of the queen.


North Korea says US drills have pushed situation to ‘extreme red-line’

North Korea says US drills have pushed situation to ‘extreme red-line’
Updated 02 February 2023

North Korea says US drills have pushed situation to ‘extreme red-line’

North Korea says US drills have pushed situation to ‘extreme red-line’
  • Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursues hostile policies: statement
  • White House rejected North Korean statement and reiterated willingness to meet North Korean diplomats

SEOUL: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that drills by the United States and its allies have pushed the situation to an “extreme red-line” and threaten to turn the peninsula into a “huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone.”
The statement, carried by state news agency KCNA, said Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursues hostile policies.
“The military and political situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region has reached an extreme red-line due to the reckless military confrontational maneuvers and hostile acts of the US and its vassal forces,” an unnamed ministry spokesperson said in the statement.
In Washington, the White House rejected the North Korean statement and reiterated a willingness to meet with North Korean diplomats “at a time and place convenient for them.”
“We have made clear we have no hostile intent toward the DPRK and seek serious and sustained diplomacy to address the full range of issues of concern to both countries and the region,” said a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.
The North Korean statement cited a visit to Seoul this week by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. On Tuesday Austin and his South Korean counterpart vowed to expand military drills and deploy more “strategic assets,” such as aircraft carriers and long-range bombers, to counter North Korea’s weapons development and prevent a war.
“This is a vivid expression of the US dangerous scenario which will result in turning the Korean peninsula into a huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone,” the North Korean statement said.
North Korea will respond to any military moves by the United States, and has strong counteraction strategies, including “the most overwhelming nuclear force” if necessary, the statement added.
More than 28,500 American troops are based in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
“We reject the notion that our joint exercises with partners in the region serve as any sort of provocation. These are routine exercises fully consistent with past practice,” the White House statement said.
Last year, North Korea conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests, which are banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions. It was also observed reopening its shuttered nuclear weapons test site, raising expectations of a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.
In New York, South Korea’s foreign minister, Park Jin, met with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday and called for the UN’s continued attention to North Korea’s recent provocations and efforts to implement sanctions on the reclusive regime.
Guterres said any resumption of nuclear testing by North Korea would deal a devastating blow to regional and international security, and reaffirmed support to build lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, according to Park’s office.
Park is on a four-day trip to the United States, which will include a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Friday.
On Wednesday the United States and South Korea carried out a joint air drill with American B-1B heavy bombers and F-22 stealth fighters, as well as F-35 jets from both countries, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
“The combined air drills this time show the US’ will and capabilities to provide strong and credible extended deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.