Inaugural G20 Religion Forum Promotes Solidarity and Respect in The Emerald of the Equator
Thailand, 1997: A financial crisis starts which is deemed local to the country, but soon the same is seen in countries throughout Southeast Asia including Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It spreads like a plague into South Korea, Hong Kong and China by fall, hitting Russia and Brazil the next year. Confidence plummets and the stock exchange hits record lows. A forum of 20 nations is formed to bring economic stability: the G20 is born.
Many sanctions, embargos, coups and wars today hinge on the subject of religion. Departments of trade restrict trade and ministers of state may issue sanctions and refuse visas—but they do not bring about understanding and get to the root of religious conflict.
To help ensure that religion in the 21st-century functions as a genuine, dynamic source of solutions rather than problems, the inaugural G20 Religion Forum (R20) was held before the 2022 G20 annual summit. It was held on November 2 – 3 in Bali, Indonesia, and cochaired by the General Chairman of the Indonesian Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama, Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf; and Secretary General Muslim World League, H.E. Shaykh Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa. It was attended by religious leaders and dignitaries from around the globe including the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam; the Minister of Religious Affairs for Indonesia, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Gary E. Stevenson; Professor at Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, Rabbi Silvina Chemen; Secretary General of the Protestant World Evangelical Alliance, Thomas Schirrmacher; Chairman of International Shinto Studies Association, Reverend Yoshinobu Miyake; and President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Vatican), Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot.
It opened with a traditional music and dance performance of a local dance called Ratoh Jaroe (which means to praise God while sitting) from Aceh, the westernmost province of Indonesia. A group of 20 dancers performed, all women wearing shimmering costumes of gold or blue. They sat with their feet tucked beneath them and moved in time with the rhythm of the music, using their bodies and the stage for percussion.
The President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, delivered a keynote for the event where he described his country of different peoples: “Indonesia is a country with many tribes, languages and religions, but we are united under the banner of one state, united in tolerance, unity and the principle of ‘unity in difference.’”
H.E. Shaykh Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa delivered a speech to the forum. He spoke of the significance of religious leaders: “Religious leaders have a great influence on their followers because of their spiritual strength based on the source of their religious discourse, as followers of religions believe, regardless of their beliefs, that the source of religion is sacred and infallible.”
Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, Founding Chairman of the R20, gave this purpose for the forum: “to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions rather than problems in the 21st century. Through the R20, we hope to facilitate the emergence of a global movement, in which people of good will of every faith and nation will help bring the world’s geopolitical and economic power structures into alignment with the highest moral and spiritual values, for the sake of all humanity.”
Next year the R20 will be in India, when they take over the G20 Presidency for 2023.