World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Ahmad Hasyim Muzadi

14 February 2006

Dr Ahmad Hasyim Muzadi is president of the 40 million-strong Nahdat al-Ulama, the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia





As a part of the Indonesian delegation, as the General Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Board of Directors, I have come to this honorable WCC 8th Assembly bringing a message of peace and friendship to all the religious communities of the world, particularly to all the christians who are gathered here. Islam is a religion of peace because the word Islam itself means peace. Hence, we proclaim that there is no violence, cruelty, chaos and visciousness on behalf of religion, including Islam.

We have to fight together to cleanse religion from all inappropriateness that can cause the world to suffer, including violence and terror, which are issues that can make the people in the world live in suffering.

Violence, extremes and new terrorism have universally spread within the past 6-7 years. If religion becomes the basis of violence and terrorism, then this should have occurred centuries ago. Why is it occurring now and it had not done so in the past? Indeed there must be some non-religious causes behind all this that has influenced religious communities and then be included into their religion.

There are several factors that must be considered in order to analyze the sources of violence and conflicts within the communities, among others: 

1. The Exclusivism and Extreme Factor

In all the religious communities, there are often small groups of followers who are very secluded and not willing to adapt to their environment. This can create exclusiveness and extremes that are susceptible to conflicts in their community. In fact, religion should be universal and must relate to their local cultures and traditions as well as to adapt and acculturate as long as it does not violate their religious norms. Therefore there should be inter-religious, traditional and cultural synergy. If there is no synergy in that relationship then it can create sources of internal as well as external religious conflicts.

2. Religious Misunderstandings

The factor of religious misunderstanding can also inflict the emergence of religious conflicts and that by delivering it to the community in the wrong way, it can create social barriers which can actually be avoided by giving clear understanding of religion and its application in the community.

3. Poverty and Ignorance in the Community

In a community of poverty and ignorance, it is generally easier to be involved in the use of violence, irrespectable of their religious beliefs.

4. Inter-religious Communication Factor

Inter-religious communication should be proportionally and democratically placed. The differences have existed ever sinve since the creation of man, and in the religion (Islam) it is prohibited to force someone to convert into Islam, because if it was done by force then it is not genuine. Therefore it is not merely a will but also it is through a calling process that comes from a sincerity to follow that religion (Islam). From one religion to another there are similarities and differences. All religions believe in God, but who their God is, is what makes the difference. Every religion has their own ritual practices toward their God, practiced in different forms and order. Each religion wishes for a peaceful and united community with dignity, but how we achieve this is done in various strategies. In terms of humanity, all religions favor justice, honesty, cooperation, etc. Therefore, the differences should not be equalized, whereas the similarities should not be differenciated.

5. The Relations between Religion and State

The relations between religion and state should be placed to compliment each other so that there are no clashes between state power and religious values. In countries that are historically and factually mono-religious (with only one religion), there is the possibility of formulating religion into the governance. But in a pluralistic country, what is absorbed into the governance and system of the state should sufficiently be the religious values formulated democratically into the governance. Since the true values of religion becomes a point of encounter with the true values of other religions, it should be formulated differently. If those true values are adequately packaged, then the state should be able to protect all the religions, as it becomes the moral basis of the country.

The positive norms of a religion is practiced by its followers with sufficient tolerance towards others and within the framework of a civil society and not a nation-state. This framework is implemented in Indonesia, so that Indonesia, whose majority of population are moslems, is based on the ideology of Pancasila (the five principles). The enforcement of religious formulation into the state of a pluralistic community indeed can induce constraints and conflicts.

6. Political, Economic and Sovereign Injustice

Conflicts between nations that trigger attacks toward other nations would surely face resistance from those countries. If a citizen is a follower of a certain religion, it is likely that he will use his religious symbols to resist, although such attacks are not necessarily religiously motivated, most possibly they are politically, economically or even hegemonically motivated. In this regard, religion is involved not due to the religious factor itself, but moreover as issues of injustice and sovereignity.

Relating to the factors mentioned above, I feel that there are several things that can be initiated by religious communities, individually or in collaboration, as follows:

  1. Clarification and enlightenment of misunderstandings and misusing of religion.
  2. Convincing the small exclusive groups to be more open to interact with other traditions and environments.
  3. A need for more intensive efforts to systematically erradicate poverty and increase the equality and quality of education, including the need to provide a cross subsidy between wealthy countries and poor countries.
  4. A need to increase the intensity of communication and strengthening unity among religious communities in order to avoid inter-religious conflicts, so that there will be more awareness towards issues that are non-religious that can become an excess to a religion or can be made a part of a religion.
  5. Together there is a need to create a government that can protect all religions.
  6. Together the elite religious communities need to initiate serious constructive steps to prevent possibilities of invasions of one country to another.
  7. To eliminate an attitude and awareness leading towards islamo-phobia so that non-moslems can see and understand the problems related to the moslem communities more clearly and far from disadvantaging prejudices.
  8. To avoid all forms of provocacy, particularly those of religious disrespect, such as the case of disrespect of the Al-Quran in Guantanamo and the caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark recently, for it will only trigger extremism and radicalism on the extreme Islamic groups.
  9. Issues on Papua. 

Presented by:
Ahmad Hasyim Muzadi