President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono used the occasion of the opening of the AEM Interfaith Conference at the Bali International Convention Center on July 21, 2005, to encourage that even militant voices be granted the chance to be heard in the dialogue to discover common grounds of understanding between the world's great religions.
President Susilo, quoted by the National News Service Antara said, "the dialogue should involve groups representing all faiths. Every voice including those from the so-called militant groups should be heard."
The President's comments formed part of welcoming remarks to the conference hosting representatives from 39 ASEM partners and international observers, government officials, intellectuals, senior journalists and the religious leaders representing, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism.
The Bali Declaration
At the close of the two-day meeting, the participants passed the "Bali Declaration on Building Interfaith Harmony" that:
• Expressed sympathy for victims of the London terror attack on July 7, 2005 and all earlier such attacks, including the Bali bombing of October 12, 2002.
• Reaffirmed the importance of religious freedom in an international atmosphere of peace, tolerance, mutual understanding and respect.
• Acknowledged the wisdom of the world's faiths and religions.
• Acknowledged the various international initiatives promoting dialogue and cooperation among different religions.
• Proclaimed that all the religions represented at the Conference commonly advocate peace, compassion, and tolerance among mankind.
• Proclaimed that the right of individual to choose religion or faith can contribute to upholding respect for the diversity of faiths and religions, which is essential in combating ideologies based on extremism, intolerance, hatred, and the use of violence.
• Proclaimed the need for people of different religions and faiths to stand united against the use of violence to divide mankind; calling on all people to speak up against those who use religion to rationalize terrorism and murder.
• Proclaimed that peace, justice, compassion, and tolerance need to be cultivated and nurtured to help create an environment conducive to building harmony within the international community and people.
• Called on their governments to continue to promote interfaith dialogue.
• Encouraged governments to incorporate interfaith studies in curricula at the post-elementary level to promote understanding and respect for the various faiths and religions, giving due consideration to the specific circumstances of the respective countries.
• Encouraged research through seminars/workshops and other activities to define educational curricula that promote and strengthen interfaith dialogue.
• Called to strengthen cooperation on enhancing the capacity of human resources through exchanges of students, teachers and youth.
• Called for educating society to accept and deal with diversity and to prevent the emergence of extremism and prejudice through activities at the grassroots, national and regional levels.
• Called to prevent the marginalization of religion-based education institutions by integrating them into national education systems and goals.
• Acknowledged the linkages between religions and cultures, to promote shared values to strengthen harmony and understanding in society.
• Called to promote exchanges for better understanding and appreciation of the diverse cultures, religions and faiths at all levels in Asia and Europe.
• Called to promote cross cultural awareness and understanding at all levels of society, particularly among the young.
• Called to strengthen and encourage freedom of expression as the cornerstone of the participation of the media in promoting interfaith harmony.
• Called to ensure the upholding of ethics in journalism in reporting interfaith issues as well as conscious distinction between news reports and commentaries.
• Called for the upholding media professionalism and social responsibility by overcoming tendencies towards negativism and avoiding news labeling which lead to stereotyping religion and believers.
• Called to encourage religious/community groups to be more proactive in engaging the media to promote balanced coverage as a means of fostering greater understanding of religions and cultures.
• Called to urge the media to provide more time and space to cover issues and developments relating to intra-faith and interfaith dialogue and cooperation.
• Called for the promotion of exchange programs and scholarships to create networks among media personnel in Asia and Europe to share best practice and generate a greater pool of resources by involving media organizations, religious communities as well as governments.
• Called to define and promote common values, such as the respect for human rights and the protection of environment.
• Called on everyone to combat corruption in all its forms.
• Encouraged and supports the establishment of mechanisms within respective religious communities to strengthen ethical behavior and commonly-shared moral values.
• Called to make use of existing interfaith organizations and institutions.
Cyprus for Next Interfaith Dialogue
During the course of the Conference, Cyprus offered to host the 2nd ASEM Interfaith Dialogue in 2006.
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