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Published On:05 December 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

International parliamentarians promote interfaith co-operation

Lawmakers of many countries pledge their commitment to religious tolerance and discuss how their institutions can promote it.

By Ni Komang Erviani

Nusa Dua, Bali: In a world where religious divisions have so often resulted in violence, a growing number of voices are calling for co-existence and tolerance.

Among them are a group of lawmakers from 17 countries who gathered in Nusa Dua, Bali on November 22nd-23rd to discuss the ways in which they and their institutions can promote interfaith and intercultural co-operation.

The meeting culminated in the Bali Declaration, intended to lay out a vision of interreligious harmony for the present era. It states that all religious beliefs and faiths can make valuable contributions to civilisation by promoting peace, compassion and tolerance.

"We firmly recognise cultural and religious diversity as a fact of life that can contribute to global wisdom and play a major role in enhancing social bonds among different nations, societies, and ethnic groups," the chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Co-operation Committee (IPCC), Surahman Hidayat told Khabar Southeast Asia.

"Thus, they should be acknowledged and respected within and among all societies and civilizations," he added.

The declaration was agreed upon and signed by all attendees, including lawmakers from Australia, Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Thailand, and Russia. According to Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika, events like this one help achieve "a better understanding" and "encourage interfaith tolerance in the world".

Religious communities represented at the event included the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the Indonesia Hindu Council Parisadha (PHDI), and the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI).

Discussions covered a wide spectrum of topics, including religious and social problems, parliamentary and universal ethics of interfaith co-operation, and best practices for building trust and harmony among religions.

Lawmakers have a key role to play

Marzuki Ali, the speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives and president of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member State (PUIC), told Khabar that the meeting aimed to promote interfaith co-operation through parliament.

"As the legislative authority, Parliaments have an important role in providing policies that promote the lofty precepts of tolerance and understanding between faiths," Ali said.

The former chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Hidayat Nur Wahid, said interfaith dialogue has not received enough attention in the past.

"Many conflicts were driven because of political problems," he said. "That's why we are doing this event – giving an opportunity to people to be part of an interfaith programme," he said.

Open media can help overcome divisions

Although it is parliamentarians and governments who make the laws, the societal climate in which they operate is impacted deeply by the media. According to participants at the meeting, a free and impartial press is vital to promoting tolerance and stability.

"The ability of the media to develop a better understanding among people of different faiths, religions, beliefs, and cultures is important," Surahman, the IPCC chairman, said.

He added, however, that an open media should also be a responsible one.

"We acknowledge the role of the media and the exercise of the freedom of expression in such a way as not to incite hatred, racism, xenophobia, or human rights violations, including denigration of religions and religious symbols," he said.

(Courtesy: Khabar Southeast Asia)

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