12/08/2004, 00.00
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Terrorism is anti-religious, Asian religious leaders say

by Mathias Hariyadi

More than 100 representatives of the main religions condemn violence by fundamentalist groups. Poverty and social injustice are the true causes of conflicts.

Yogyakarta (AsiaNews) – Religious leaders from the Asia-Pacific region said in a joint statement that inter-faith dialogue must be strengthened and fundamentalist groups condemned as an obstacle to peace. Meeting at Yogyakarta (central Java), 124 representatives of different religions (Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish) along with political leaders agreed that dialogue between religions and peace must be promoted in the region.

Father Ismartono, who represented the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia, said the meeting was important because it facilitated the exchange of ideas between people from different religious groups strengthening their mutual bonds of friendships.

He said the meeting was "politically significant" because it saw all participants condemn the "extreme right and fundamentalist groups".

Mgr Manuel Mousanto also said the meeting "strengthened inter-faith dialogue" and created "better understanding between Christians and Muslims," especially in Mindanao.

Delegates agreed that terrorism had no roots in religion and that it went against the ethical principles of "all faiths". 

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reiterated this point. For him, "terrorism is the enemy of all religions", and it is necessary to eliminate "religious and racial prejudices due to economic differences and discrimination between the rich and the poor that might spark conflicts".

"The bases of terrorism are structural injustices," Australian delegate Sister Patricia Madigan said. To defeat it requires "knowledge of, friendship with and mutual understanding between one another".

At the meeting, Syafii Maarif, chairman of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second largest Muslim organisation, denounced aggressive US foreign policy, saying it had caused misery in many parts of the world. "However, we should not hate the Americans," he added.

Syafii Anwar, executive director of the International Centre for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP), said that a peaceful world can be achieved when Islamic democracy is fostered to counter Islamic radicalism. 

In an international conference in Jakarta co-sponsored by the ICIP and the Asia Foundation, he said that "Islam is not against democracy. In the holy Qu'ran, it is very often said that values such as the same dignity for all people is in line with democracy".

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