Indonesia embodies “the added value of cultural diversity” and “can become the bridge between the West and Islam” on the road to peace. Speaking is Minister for Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini at the international conference on “Unity in Diversity: the Indonesian model for a society based on co-existence”, which took place at the foreign ministry (MFA) on Wednesday 4 March. The Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs, N. Hassan Wirajuda, also attended the conference.
Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world but is not an Islamic state, noted Frattini. The Minister explained that the institutions ensure respect for all religions and that this “has led to a strengthening of democracy”. The country is preparing for the second elections (presidential and general) in its history. Frattini added that Italy shares with Indonesia its determination to work for peace in the Middle East, its commitment to peacekeeping missions, for example in Lebanon, its concern over the human rights crisis in Burma and its commitment to fighting fundamentalist-inspired terrorism.
Frattini: we have invited Indonesia to the G8 Summit at La Maddalena
Italy, which holds the current G8 Presidency, has invited Indonesia to La Maddalena in July for the global climate negotiations in preparation for the UN conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. Minister Frattini made this announcement at the end of a bilateral meeting at the MFA with his Indonesian colleague, Minister Wirajuda. Indonesia has also been invited to the ministerial meetings on energy and the environment that will be taking place respectively in Rome and Siracusa, in Sicily. Minister Frattini noted that Indonesia will also be attending the G20 in London on 2 April “to make an important contribution” to the discussion on the economic crisis.
In terms of bilateral relations, Italy “wishes to raise the level of political dialogue” with Indonesia. Immediately after the presidential and general elections (in April and July respectively), the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Stefania Craxi, will be visiting Jakarta on a mission that will also prepare the way for Minister Frattini’s own visit there in 2010. Economic relations “should also be intensified”, added Minister Frattini. He announced that in the next few weeks a delegation from the Indonesian Investment Board will be arriving in Italy to present opportunities for Italian investment in Indonesia.
Wirajuda: the culture of co-existence is a pillar of our Constitution
Indonesian Foreign Minister Wirajuda underscored that in his country the culture of co-existence is one of the pillars of the Constitution, which was drawn up in 1945. A charter that “sanctions the separation of state and religion and in which the rule of law and respect for human rights and minorities are key priorities”. Indonesia is also engaged, in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in promoting the protection of human rights and has created an inter-governmental forum to foster greater democratisation in the area. In his closing remarks at the Conference, the President of the Sant’Egidio Community, Professor Marco Impagliazzo, said that “co-existing in harmony does not mean cancelling out differences – it means lending strength to different identities. In this respect, Indonesia is a test-bed and model”. The Community, which promoted the conference along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is present in 15 cities in Indonesia, with the involvement of over 500 local volunteers. It is engaged in combating poverty and promoting inter-faith dialogue at both the grassroots and leadership levels.
Indonesia, model of Islamic democracy
The goal of the “Italy and Indonesia: a dialogue to construct a society of harmonious co-existence” project, drawn up in agreement with the Community of Sant’Egidio, is to address Indonesia as the face of a liberal Islam open to dialogue and a sustainable model of Islamic democracy, development and respect for human rights. Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world (with 200 million Muslims out of 240 million inhabitants) and aims to play an international role as a bridge to the Muslim world. The Indonesian commitment in Lebanon and Jakarta’s role in the Middle East, with its diplomatic focus on the peace process and the quest for dialogue with Iran, should be set against this background.
The Conference on “Unity in Diversity: the Indonesian model for a society based on co-existence” marks the beginning of a new pathway of dialogue with Jakarta as a channel to Islam in Asia.
The initiative immediately attracted the interest of Minister Wirajuda, one of the main promoters of the liberal Indonesian model of Islam, and of the great moderate Muslim organisations (Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammaddyah) and leading intellectuals and members of Indonesian civil society.
Italy is for the first time addressing the Islam of East Asia, an alternative voice of the Islamic world that combines democracy, development and respect for human rights and for religious and cultural minorities. This will also be an opportunity to strengthen the young Indonesian democracy, which in 2009 will see the second elections in its history: the general election in April, followed by the presidential election in July/September.
Part of the follow-up to the Conference of 4 March, the “Italy and Indonesia” project envisages social initiatives on behalf of vulnerable categories of Indonesian society and further initiatives for dialogue with Indonesia.