ASEAN Shared Civilizational Values: Building an Epicentrum of Harmony to Foster Peace, Security, and Economic Prosperity in Southeast Asia

“What the world needs today is unconditional love, which heals divides that are based on the color of our skin, the languages we speak, and the religions we profess. This pure, unconditional love may be found in the essence of all religions.”
~ Sister Loh Pai Ling
President of the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia

JAKARTA, Indonesia, 7 August 2023 — Plenary Session 3 of the ASEAN Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Conference featured a series of short addresses delivered by prominent religious leaders from ASEAN Member States, India, and China regarding how moral and spiritual values shared by the diverse peoples of Southeast Asia might help transform the region into an epicentrum of peace, harmony, and economic prosperity.

The session featured contributions from senior Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Confucian religious leaders, and was hosted by Dr. Al Makin, rector of one of the world’s leading Islamic universities, Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Hailing from different countries in one of the most culturally, linguistically, and religiously diverse regions of the world, the ten speakers both articulated and embodied the reality of “ASEAN shared civilizational values.” These values reflect the region’s diverse religious traditions, as well as an underlying spiritual unity that pervades them. Selected excerpts of their contributions, edited for publication, may be read below.

The first speaker was the Right Reverend Yanuarius Teofilus Matopai You, Roman Catholic Bishop of Jayapura on the largely Christian-populated island of Papua, which is situated in the easternmost region of Indonesia. The Rt. Rev. Yanuarius is the first native Papuan ever to be consecrated as a Roman Catholic Bishop.

Nahdlatul Ulama requested that Bishop Yanuarius deliver a welcome address to prominent religious leaders gathered for the first ASEAN Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Conference. In doing so, the Conference highlighted Indonesia’s immense ethnic and religious diversity and the significance of the nation’s motto, Bhinneka Tunngal Ika (“Oneness Amid Diversity”).

Assalamualaikum warahatullahi wabarokatuh

Peace be upon us all, Shalom, Oom Swastiastu, Namo Buddhaya, Greetings of goodness.

Dear delegates, first of all, let me express my sincere appreciation to our host, Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, the great Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, who invited me — a Christian leader from Papua — to address this important ASEAN Conference on Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.

I also wish to express my thanks to Nahdlatul Ulama itself. NU does not merely discuss humanitarian problems in Papua. It is actively engaged in providing real and direct assistance to the people of Papua, on many levels.

I welcome all the religious leaders and scholars from throughout ASEAN who are attending this event, and international observers from Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and other parts of the world. I welcome all of you with a greeting expressed in my native Papuan language: Wa, wa, wa, wa, wa.

This conference has adopted the theme “ASEAN Shared Civilizational Values: Building an Epicentrum of Harmony to Foster Peace, Security, and Economic Prosperity,” and seeks to engage all regional stakeholders in an effort to develop consensus regarding shared values. This strategy includes mobilizing like-minded cultural and religious leaders throughout South and Southeast Asia to encourage a renewed appreciation of the principles and respect for pluralism that once characterized our region.

The Second Vatican Council urged Christians to engage in dialogue and cooperate with followers of other religions, animated by the spirit of wisdom, humility, and love, and as a testimony of Christian life and faith.

In particular, the Second Vatican Council encouraged Christians to work with our brothers and sisters of every faith to advance social justice, morality, peace, and freedom for the benefit of all.

As Papuan church leaders, we have also been inspired by the meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil eight centuries ago, and were further inspired by the historic meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, in Abu Dhabi in February 2019.

For Christians, the command to love that we received from the Lord Jesus serves as a motive force for practicing love and peace in a heterogeneous environment.

Dear delegates, as a Christian leader in Papua, we focus on the communicative dimension of acts of violence, and view dialogue as the path and beginning of a search for solutions, not the final destination. History demonstrates that violence is unable to resolve the Papuan conflict. Violence merely increases the number of victims and worsens the problem. A peaceful resolution of the Papua conflict is urgently needed to prevent further bloodshed.

Two types of dialogue have been developed, which we employ to address and reduce the scale of the problems we face in Papua: namely, external and internal dialogue. Through external dialogue, we encourage the development of native Papuans’ educational capacity and economic skills, in conjunction with efforts to foster peace, security, and stability, through cooperation between three pillars of society: traditional leaders, government, and the church.

Through internal dialogue, we seek to foster unity and cooperation between Papuan churches and other religions, so that we may jointly strive to establish peace in the land of Papua.

I would like to conclude my remarks by thanking the organizers of this conference for promoting tolerance, respect, and understanding between diverse cultures and religions. Dialogue is essential to the constructive exchange of ideas between different peoples. I hope and pray that dialogue, conducted in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect, will significantly accelerate efforts to promote peace not only in Asia, but also in Indonesia and Papua as well.

Remarks by Dr. Muhammad Hafidz Hasyim
Academy of Brunei Studies (Brunei Darussalam)

Staying true to the teachings of the Qur’an, Islam recognizes religious diversity as a normal aspect of human life….

As a small nation that strongly adheres to ASEAN culture, Brunei’s outlook is shaped by the Islamic virtues, which hold that a caring community is conducive to a more harmonious society. Southeast Asia is the most dynamic and diverse region in the world, and any form of conflict and intolerance has the potential to destabilize regional security. For Brunei, religious conflict and extremism violate Islamic teaching, and could potentially devastate our way of life.

It is my hope that this timely conference will help us to find common ground in upholding the calm, respectful dialogue that is key to strengthening the region and achieving a harmonious, peaceful, and prosperous ASEAN Community.

Remarks by Venerable Dr. Yon Seng Yeath
President of the Buddhist Association of Cambodia

My deep respect to the Buddha dhamma and the sangha. Distinguished guests, venerable monks, ladies and gentlemen.

I am deeply honored and very pleased to attend this wonderful conference, which brings together religious and civil society leaders, representatives of ASEAN Member States, policy makers, and scholars to explore how ASEAN may become an epicentrum of peace, harmony, and economic prosperity.

In order to achieve this, we can begin by providing a space for religious leaders to engage one another in constructive dialogue with a view to promoting tolerance. Religious leaders should be afforded the opportunity to address misconceptions, stereotypes, and prejudices that often hinder peaceful coexistence between communities. Through open and respectful conversations, such engagement will foster a climate of mutual acceptance, respect, and even appreciation for diverse religious beliefs and practices.

I would like to humbly suggest the following to all ASEAN stakeholders: first, do not sideline religious leaders. Please talk to them, for they possess the ability to effectively communicate with everyday people and thereby reduce misconceptions and tensions among religious believers. Religious intolerance cannot be eliminated, or effectively addressed, without engaging religious leaders. So, I humbly request that you [senior political leaders attending the ASEAN IIDC] engage them in constructive dialogue.

Second, enhance interfaith cooperation. Although we all dwell upon the same earth, we embrace very different faiths. While there may be some similarities in religious practice, these are few and far between. If we seek similarities in ritual or doctrine between our religions, as a precondition to sitting down and engaging with one another, we will not get very far. My humble suggestion is that — for fruitful interfaith cooperation to occur — we should try to work together while accepting our differences and understanding the reasons why these exist.

For example, I am a Buddhist. When I am asked about other religions I say “Yes, their origins are good.” If I am asked which religion I want to practice, I will certainly answer “Buddhism.” I have an attachment to my religion, as practitioners of all faiths have an attachment to theirs. If we try to seek similarities in religious practice, therefore, we will find that it is not always possible. The only way to begin cooperating with one another is to accept our differences. I must accept other religions, even though I do not follow them. I think that by starting from this point of accepting differences, interfaith cooperation can be achieved at some level.

Finally, we must address socio-cultural challenges. By recognizing the interplay between religion, culture, and society, we may discover and amplify innovative ways to address these challenges and foster social harmony. I believe that the cultures and religions of our respective communities have much to offer humanity. So it is altogether appropriate for ASEAN Member States to be proud of their “spiritual capital.” Thank you very much.

Remarks by Sister Loh Pai Ling
President of the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia

Honorable dignitaries, organizers, venerable leaders of various religions, distinguished speakers, delegates and participants, ladies and gentlemen: I bring you greetings of peace from Malaysia.

It is indeed an honor to be here with my fellow Malaysian delegates, to represent our nation at this conference.

Firstly, I would like to convey an apology from my teacher, the Venerable Mahindra Mahathera, who is unable to be here in person due to last minute circumstances beyond our control. He is the senior-most spiritual advisor to the Buddhist Missionary Society in Malaysia, a leading Buddhist organization that was established 61 years ago. In lieu of his presence, I have written down and will share with you some of his thoughts regarding religious harmony, from the perspective of Buddhism.

Due to time constraints, I will not be able to share his thoughts in full. Therefore, please permit me to read aloud several excerpts that I feel may not only represent a meaningful contribution to the deliberations of this conference, but also provide better insight into the role of Buddhism in interreligious and intercultural dialogue, leading to the desired goals of establishing peace and harmony.

Religious and spiritual traditions have a key role to play in promoting global peace, harmony, and stability. What the world needs today is unconditional love, which heals divides that are based on the color of our skin, the languages we speak, and the religions we profess. This pure, unconditional love may be found in the essence of all religions.

From the Buddhist perspective, loving kindness helps generate acceptance of others and the good will required to transmute negative perceptions that we have towards other religions, due to past experiences. Loving kindness and mindfulness, as taught by the Buddha, are also effective means through which we may transform ourselves and help to transform others.

We are unable to control what is happening in the world at large, but we can train and cultivate our own minds to develop the strength, courage, and wisdom to face the challenges that exist today. These practices are not dependent on religious belief, but can be universally applied irrespective of a person’s faith and culture.

In this context, I would like to emphasize the importance of education. Education plays a vital role in developing individual behavioral patterns. Education has the power to divide and breed hatred. It also has the power to unite and inspire loving kindness. Only then will it be worthy of the original meaning of the Latin term educare: “to train, mold, lead out.” To lead young minds from darkness to light.

Ladies and gentlemen, the teachings of the Buddha aim at cultivating the mind to understand the true nature of our self and the world around us, by developing wisdom and compassion. As we attain greater understanding, wisdom, and compassion, we will naturally become more open and respectful towards other religions and spiritual traditions. Although the degree of openness will depend on our individual level of development, in general we can say that a Buddhist attitude towards other religions is one of respect and open mindedness.

As time is short, I would like to conclude here and thank you all — on behalf of the Venerable Mahindra Mahathera — for this opportunity to convey our thoughts on how to forge interreligious and intercultural peace and harmony.

Salam and terimakasih from Malaysia.

Remarks by Venerable Dr. Sobhita
President of International Buddhist Education Center, Myanmar

Good morning and mingalabar (“hello”) to all of you: to the Honorable President of the Republic of Indonesia; the young Indonesian middle school students who just told us about character education; representatives of ASEAN Member States and religious bodies; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am honored and privileged to be here today at this important summit, to help “build consensus regarding shared values” of peace and prosperity.

I am a Buddhist monk from the Sagaing region of Myanmar, which has undergone many tragic experiences of violent conflict. I come here in the hope that I may seek concrete avenues of cooperation with my fellow religious leaders to bring peace to my hometown.

Since I am a son of Buddha, I mediate conflicts by teaching loving kindness in accordance with his dhamma, and I also provide monastic education to conflict-affected children and youth in order to foster reconciliation within communities.

My organization, the International Buddhist Education Center (IBEC) is headquartered in Sagaing, Myanmar, but also works to promote reconciliation among the Myanmarese diaspora through centers in Thailand, Nepal, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Last year, I attended the inaugural G20 Religion Form (R20) Summit in Bali, as well as the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York, to appeal for your help in healing the pain of the Myanmarese people.

As ASEAN Member States have worked to facilitate a process of dialogue in Myanmar, I would like to stress that there is nothing more important than focusing on the needs of younger generations and children within the country. My center provides not only shelter, but also a place to learn for children afflicted by conflict, and I am trying to mobilize awareness of the need to protect places of learning from attack and disruption.

At this very moment, IBEC is hosting over 6,300 students through our community-based monastic education networks in Sagaing as well as ethnic states such as Chin, Kachin, and Karen, where conflict has disrupted schools.

I would like to use this opportunity to appeal to international leaders and the ASEAN Chair — Indonesia — to please help us. Help us by reinforcing the idea that schools must be kept safe, by using discussions about children’s education to call for a humanitarian pause to conflicts, and through mediation and confidence-building measures.

At the same time, I call upon my fellow citizens to push for a cessation of violence against innocent civilians, religious leaders, schoolteachers, government staff, and children. I would like to urge all concerned parties — do not disrupt children’s education. Protect schools.

Finally, I would like to request that international leaders, colleagues, and friends help us to reopen the schools in Myanmar, so that future generations may live in peace and prosperity. All parties should come together and work to make schools “zones of peace” that can be expanded, step-by-step. The international community must help us to achieve this. Shaming, blaming, pressuring, and sanctioning does not help, but rather makes our people suffer and leaves our children without education and hope for the future.

It is my aspiration that ASEAN lead this initiative. I believe that the crisis in Myanmar can only be resolved through constructive dialogue, positive partnership, effective collaboration, and — most important of all — through shared values of peace and reconciliation championed by our religious leaders in the region. Let us work together to build ASEAN into an epicentrum of harmony to foster peace, security, and economic prosperity. Thank you.

Remarks by Venerable Dr. Seck Kwang Phing
President of the Singapore Buddhist Federation

Good morning to all of you: organizers, esteemed fellow speakers, and conference participants.

The theme of my short speech today is harmony, and how we may achieve it in our lives.

According to the Buddhist perspective, harmony is the product of right thought, right speech, and right action. Harmony will not occur naturally, fall from the sky, or spring from the earth. On the contrary, harmony is the result of human action.

It is, therefore, our responsibility to cultivate and uphold harmony within our own lives and in the world we inhabit.

Some may ask “why is harmony desirable? Why do we need it?”. The answer is simple: mental harmony is the key to a happy life. Once one realizes that achieving harmony in ourselves will lead to a happy existence, we can appreciate that every human being also desires harmony for themselves. It is, therefore, our responsibility to ensure that we do not cause disharmony for others, as this may result in others causing disharmony for us. This is the Law of Cause and Effect.

The individual human being is the smallest, most basic social unit in the family, community, nation, and world at large. If each human being practices right thought, right speech, and right action, then they will have a harmonious family life. This harmonious family will, in turn, be the basis for a harmonious community, a happy nation, and a peaceful planet.

If harmony is desirable, the next question to be answered is how it may be achieved. The Buddha taught that our thoughts precede our actions and, therefore, we must — first and foremost — train our minds. This training has nothing to do with religious belief. It is simply a method for realizing harmony in our lives. We should implement three simple precepts:

1. Avoid doing all evil deeds. 2. Perform all good deeds. 3. Purify your mind.

To implement the first precept, one should be watchful of one’s thought, speech, and actions. Make sure that one’s thoughts about others are not evil; that one’s speech is not pernicious; and that one’s actions cause no harm.

When we observe an unpleasant thought arising in the mind, we should prevent it from developing into unhealthy speech — which may cause discord with others — or an infelicitous action, which may be unwelcome to others.

On its own, however, avoiding harm is not enough, one should make oneself beneficial to others by performing good deeds. The Buddha, therefore, encouraged human beings to be generous, merciful, and useful members of society.

Performing good deeds — the second precept — is part of training the mind. As one performs charitable acts for others, they will reciprocate and be good to you. If every human being acted in this way, the planet would live in harmony.

From time to time — especially amidst difficult circumstances that cause us to feel frustrated — evil thoughts may arise. We must, therefore, train our minds to have compassion and loving kindness. Once the mind is trained in this way, negative thoughts will not arise, pernicious speech will not be uttered, and harmful actions will not be undertaken. It is advisable to recite these two verses in our minds in the morning, afternoon, or before sleep:

“May I be well and happy. May all human beings be well and happy.”

Guided by the three precepts I have explained, Buddhists in Singapore always strive to perform charity for the less fortunate; raise funds for the victims of natural disasters; and invite the followers of other religions to participate in our festivities, educational exchange programs, and so on. We believe that by doing this we will strengthen mutual understanding, foster worthwhile friendships, and live in peace and harmony with people of different ethnicities and creeds.

Remarks by Venerable Dr. Thich Due Thien
Member of Parliament and Vice President and Secretary General of the Executive Council of Vietnam Buddhist Sangha

Your excellencies, venerable brothers, distinguished professors, scholars, ladies and gentlemen.

Allow me to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude, on behalf of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, to the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and Nahdlatul Ulama.

I would also like to thank Dr. Timothy Samuel Shah — Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Center for Shared Civilizational Values — for inviting me to address the ASEAN Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Conference (ASEAN IIDC). I sincerely hope that this conference is crowned with great success.

I am so pleased to be here in Jakarta today, among brothers and sisters from across ASEAN. I feel the same love and attachment as I would were I among family.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: the world is experiencing numerous political and security upheavals, which are evolving in a complex and unpredictable manner. We face non-traditional security risks, wars, terrorism, and ethnic and religious conflicts in many parts of the world.

Multiple crises from the environment, ecology, and climate change to inequality, poverty, and pandemic have been changing every aspect of our lives and traditions.

This reality requires coordination among Southeast Asian nations at every level, especially in the field of interreligious and intercultural dialogue. It is high time for us to come together and work to promote the core, shared values of our civilization and religions, such as tolerance, selflessness, generosity, harmony, and peace.

Therefore, I welcome the initiative of the Center for Shared Civilizational Values and Nahdlatul Ulama — supported by the Government of the Republic of Indonesia — in organizing the ASEAN IIDC with the theme “ASEAN Shared Civilizational Values: Building an Epicentrum of Harmony to Foster Peace, Security, and Economic Prosperity.”  This conference confirms our determination to take action to promote the shared civilizational and cultural values so vital to ASEAN’s future.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: Vietnam is a Southeast Asian nation with a long tradition of multi-ethnic and multi-religious tolerance. Each of the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam have religions and beliefs associated with their economic, cultural, and social conditions.

Religious life in Vietnam is diverse and vibrant, and around 95 percent of the population practice some form of religious belief.

All major world religions are practiced in Vietnam, which has made great strides in ensuring equality and harmony among the followers of different faiths by promoting human rights in general and the right to freedom of belief in particular.

Religions contribute to many aspects of social life in Vietnam, and religious believers live side-by-side in a spirit of mutual understanding and dialogue, while preserving harmony between — and accepting the differences of — the diverse elements that play a dominant role in society.

The Vietnam Buddhist Sangha has always been proactive in promoting mutual understanding, increasing tolerance, and conducting dialogue in a spirit of respect with those who hold different religious beliefs.

Based upon our experience in Vietnam, I would humbly like to make the following suggestions.

Firstly: governments and religious leaders should work together to promote cooperation, dialogue, and information-sharing mechanisms. This will help to develop the mutual understanding, shared interests, and respect necessary to find solutions to conflicts and other global challenges.

Secondly: we should rediscover the principle of unity within diversity and ensure that it plays a central role within ASEAN. Shared civilizational values, cultural pluralism, and peace should be promoted through interreligious and intercultural dialogue, as well as other activities and joint documents.

In conclusion, I would once again like to reiterate on behalf of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha that we highly appreciate the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and Nahdlatul Ulama for their initiative to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue across ASEAN.

Thank you very much.

Remarks by Master Hu Chenglin
Vice President of the Taoist Association of China

Taoism is one of the oldest religions in the world. It upholds universal values such as harmony, inclusiveness, peace, and love. With an open and tolerant attitude, Taoism has always embraced others with a broad mind, continuously absorbed and learned from the excellent civilizational achievements of other religions, and actively adapted and coexisted peacefully with other religions and civilizations…. I wish this conference complete success, and hope that these fruitful exchanges between religions will continue.

Remarks by His Holiness Swami Mitrananda
Director of National Projects of All India Chinmaya Yuva Kendra

My salutations to everyone present here today. Namaste.

Ladies and gentlemen, the goal of religion is for human beings to evolve spiritually and become divine. All of us are born human. By the time we die, we should have become divine. This is the objective of every holy book, and all religious paths aim to achieve it.

Interfaith dialogue should stress — above all else — that every religious path is valid. The moment we say, “all paths are valid,” we become accommodative. This is the key to ending conflict.

There is a beautiful śloka (verse) in Hindu philosophy which says that, however we practice religion, our salutations will reach God like rainwater collecting in streams that flow to the ocean [repeats verse in Sanskrit]. This is accommodation.

If we have the conviction that every path is valid, then we will respect everyone and encourage them to follow their path.

Hinduism — the oldest religion — has demonstrated to the world that we can coexist. Like scientific enquiry, Hinduism does not stem from a single founder or book. Hinduism stems from many founders and a veritable library of books. The collective observations of different scientists constitute science. Similarly, the collective observations of different, spiritually evolved human beings constitute Hindu philosophy. This is why we can coexist. We worship many forms.

For ages long past, coexistence has come naturally to Hindus. When differences occur — as they have historically and continue to do so up to the present day — we need to refocus on the concept of coexistence, again and again.

As religious leaders, it is our responsibility to inspire our followers and inform them that all paths are valid, and that we should respect others for the spiritual paths they choose to walk.

Respect others. Let us call nobody undivine, for this creates conflict. Let us consider humanity. We are all born human, and we are divine, we have the potential to become divine, and we will become divine. If we removed the word “undivine” when discussing others, then respect would spring forth for everyone and engender brotherhood and coexistence.

This is the way forward. Let us stand up and proclaim that every religion is beautiful. Every religion is valid. Every path is valid.

Thank you very much.

Muhammad Shamsuri bin Ghazali with his Malaysian compatriot Sister Loh Pai Ling

Remarks by Muhammad Shamsuri bin Ghazali
First Secretary of Religious Affairs, Malaysian Embassy, Jakarta

Greetings of prosperity. Greetings of peace. Praise and thanks be to God, and may peace be upon the Messenger of God.

To the honorable leadership of Nahdlatul Ulama, religious leaders from many nations, blessed ladies and gentlemen: it is a privilege to address you here today.

Malaysia is a Southeast Asian nation inhabited by 33.4 million people, which — compared to Indonesia’s 270 million inhabitants — is a very small number. I believe that Jakarta alone has a population equal to that of Malaysia. Nevertheless, praise be to God, Malaysia has long been populated by diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural communities.

According to Department of Statistics Malaysia, our population is 61.32 percent Muslim, 19.84 percent Buddhist, 9.24 percent Christian, 6.27 percent Hindu, and 1.26 percent Taoist, among other religious groups. As in Indonesia, tolerance of diversity is instilled in all age groups, nurtured by civic leaders, and practiced by young and old alike.

Praise be to God, the 31st of August 2023 will mark 66 years of Malaysian independence. Our enthusiasm for living together remains vigorous, and Malaysians cherish our harmonious coexistence. Nevertheless — as with all nations — the sky is not always bright, our hair is not always a lustrous black, and our hearts are not aways healthy.

It turns out that establishing religious harmony is fairly straightforward, but maintaining it is full of trials and tribulations.

This is why — just like Indonesia — Malaysia also has Pancasila, or five principles. In Indonesia these five principles are:

  1. [Belief in] the Divinity Who is the Great “One”;
  2. A just and civilized humanity;
  3. The unity of Indonesia;
  4. Society led by the wisdom that arises from deliberations among and between the people’s representatives; and
  5. Social justice for all the people of Indonesia.

In Malaysia, we also know that ensuring harmony within a nation that has many ethnicities, religions, and cultures requires shared principles, and so our state is also supported by five National Principles:

  1. Belief in God;
  2. Loyalty to king and country;
  3. The supremacy of the constitution;
  4. Rule of law; and
  5. Courtesy and morality.

Praise be to God, after 66 years of independence, our Kingdom has now introduced Madani Malaysia (“Civil Malaysia”) in order to strengthen the five National Principles and secure the endeavors of previous leaders, who ensured harmony in Malaysia’s national life.

It is our sincere hope that — through Madani Malaysia — we may continue to live in eternal peace and harmony with the other nations of ASEAN.

Blessed ladies and gentlemen, I was extremely impressed by President Joko Widodo and KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf’s remarks at the beginning of this conference.

The ASEAN Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Conference (ASEAN IIDC) is an extremely big idea, a hope that needs to be championed — especially by those of us here today — and translated into concrete action by governments, so that ASEAN may become an epicentrum of prosperity and peace.

Finally — in the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful — let us work together to maintain this precious ark of religious tolerance, and navigate it until we arrive at a world that is wide open and replete with opportunity.

Let us not allow anyone — be they individuals, organizations, or religious communities — to attempt to tear up or challenge the precious harmony that we have already achieved throughout ASEAN.

I believe that, God Willing, the ASEAN IIDC will prove to be a blessing: a forum that enables us to nourish and restore the spirit of religious tolerance throughout ASEAN.

God knows all things. May the peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you.

Dr. Al Makin (pictured) closed Plenary Session 3 with a brief prayer

“May all religions with their religious leaders serve
as sources of universal love and compassion (rahmatan li al-‘alamin).

May all sentient beings, be they biological or non-biological, be happy.[In Arabic] May God guide us upon the straight path.
May the peace, blessings, and mercy of God be upon you.

~ Dr. Al Makin
Rector of Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta

From left to right: Dr. Al-Makin; the Rt. Rev. Yanuarius Teofilus Matopai You; Dr. Muhammad Hafidz Hasyim; Master Hu Chenglin; Venerable Dr. Sobhita; Venerable Dr. Thich Due Thien; Venerable Dr. Yon Seng Yeath; Venerable Dr. Seck Kwang Phing; His Holiness Swami Mitrananda; Muhammad Shamsuri bin Ghazali; Sister Loh Pai Ling; and KH. Amin Said Husni, Vice Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama

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