The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
 FORMER MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA

Joint Media Release

The Minister for Foreign Affairs,Australia, Alexander Downer and The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Indonesia, Dr N. Hassan Wirajuda

6-7 December 2004

Australia-Indonesia Joint Media Statement: International Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation: Yogyakarta

Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia opened the International Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation in Yogyakarta on 6 December 2004. In his opening remarks, President Yudhoyono said that when ethnic and religious prejudice was compounded by economic and political rivalry, conflict was inevitable. The solution was not to deny the reality of our differences, but to affirm a deeper, greater and more important reality - our common humanity.

The two day Interfaith Dialogue is co-sponsored by the Government of Australia and the Government of Indonesia, and organised jointly with the Muhammadiyah - one of the largest Islamic organisations in Indonesia.

Australia and Indonesia are determined to promote understanding and to foster harmony between faith communities across our region. Today we face many challenges - one of them is how to empower the moderates within our societies and among countries in the region. The overwhelming majority in our societies want peace, harmony and prosperity. There is much potential for all communities in the region to cooperate more closely to further our spiritual, social and economic development goals. Faith and community leaders have an important role to play in denying extremists any religious or moral legitimacy and in building trust between communities.

In what is a clear statement of their shared commitment to building inclusive communities, major faith leaders from the ASEAN countries, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor have enthusiastically agreed to participate.

Interfaith cooperation is now a necessity - extremism poses a very serious threat to all our societies. All faiths need to resist those attempting to drive a wedge between them. We all need to come together and renounce those who advocate doctrines of intolerance and violence.

This event will help empower the moderates and underpin the key role of faith and community leaders in bridging differences and building harmony in the South East Asia region. The Interfaith Dialogue will provide a platform for them to give important messages to their communities on mutual understanding, tolerance and peaceful co-existence. By promoting understanding and learning from each other’s experiences, this gathering will also foster a common regional resolve to meet challenges such as terrorism and to work together to further social and economic development.

This is the first joint Australia-Indonesian Government organised event of this type and builds on the strong record of cooperation in organising major regional meetings to facilitate cooperation on counter-terrorism and people smuggling. The Dialogue represents a continuity in both countries’ approach to building understanding of the constructive role that faith communities play in the region. In February 2004, Indonesia’s Department of Foreign Affairs organised the International Conference of Islamic Scholars (ICIS), in cooperation with the Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia. The Australian Government has hosted visits to Australia by Islamic leaders and scholars from the region, and supported a conference on Islamic Perspectives on Governance, State and Society in South-East Asia, held in Canberra in August 2004.

The Australian and Indonesian Governments hope that the Interfaith Dialogue will be the beginning of a process of more direct and frequent communication between regional faith leaders in solving problems and building a more harmonious and peaceful future for the region.

Media inquiries: Mr Downer's Office 02 62777 500