2023_01_19_Launch of the R20 Website

R20 establishes multifaceted online presence “to help ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems”

“A unique and significant initiative… to assist G-20 governments in building a united, pluralist and peaceful world”

JAKARTA, Indonesia, 19 January 2023 — The G20 Religion Forum (R20) has launched an extensive website to provide religious leaders, government officials, journalists, scholars, and other interested parties with ready access to authoritative information about the R20, including its vision, mission, goals, and agenda.

The world’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), established the R20 in conjunction with Indonesia’s  Presidency of the G20 group of the world’s largest economies, in 2022, and appointed the Center for Shared Civilizational Values to serve as the R20’s permanent secretariat.

A number of R20 events are planned for 2023 in the U.S., the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, following the rotation of the G20 Presidency from Indonesia to India. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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POLITICAL COMMUNIQUÉS – 2022

2022_12_12_A Curious Courtship

As G20 Presidency moves to India, the R20 “is part of a larger Muslim struggle that is likely to define Islam in the 21st century”

“India is not where the battle for the soul of the world’s major religions, including Islam and Hinduism, will be decided, but it is the battle’s next arena.”
~ James M. Dorsey

R20 participants from India observe a Hindu ritual at Prambanan Temple on the Indonesian island of Java

BANGKOK, Thailand, 12 December 2022 — Geopolitical expert and commentator James M. Dorsey has written an extensive, 1,300-word analysis of the intensifying soft power competition surrounding the G20 Religion Forum, or R20, the results of which will determine whether Muslims “choose between taking the high or the low road to coming to grips with history.

“The high road involves confronting painful truths in a quest for a healthier, more pluralistic, and socially cohesive society. The low road allows autocrats to either rewrite history or sweep it under the table and opportunistically bend it to their will.”

Founded by Nahdlatul Ulama Chairman KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf in 2022 in conjunction with Indonesia’s Presidency of the G20, the next R20 Summit will occur in India in 2023. At stake, observes Dr. Dorsey, is whether the event will retain its original focus “on coming to grips with the problematic histories of various religions, including Islam, to generate genuine religious reform” or follow other interfaith summits and become “geared towards themes likely to curry favour in Western capitals.” Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_12_01_The Muslim 500

NU Chairman KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf recognized as one of the 20 most influential Muslims in the world

AMMAN, Jordan, 1 December 2022 — The Muslim 500, the world’s premier index of Muslim power and influence, has acknowledged KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf as among the world’s 20 most influential Muslims in its newly released 2023 edition. This comes amid a rising tide of international recognition for the Nahdlatul Ulama Chairman and organizations that he has founded, including Bayt ar-Rahmah, the Humanitarian Islam movement, the Center for Shared Civilizational Values, and the G20 Religion Forum, or R20.

At number 19, Mr. Staquf is ranked just nine places below Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia — an indication of Nahdlatul Ulama’s enormous influence. The Muslim 500 describes Nahdlatul Ulama as “the world’s largest Muslim organisation, [which] teaches that the primary message of Islam is universal love and compassion.” Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_11_29_India-Indonesia Strategic Partnership

High-level Ulama Delegation of “National Treasures” Visits India in the Wake of R20 Summit

“We take pride in our relations with Indonesia, which have been elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in recent years.”
~ India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval

NEW DELHI, India, 29 November 2022 — The India Islamic Cultural Center hosted a day-long dialogue on the role of ulama, or Muslim scholars, in fostering interfaith peace and social harmony in India and Indonesia, as part of a comprehensive strategic partnership emerging between the world’s largest and third largest democracies.

India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and his Indonesian counterpart, Mahfud MD, held two days of high-level discussions that included meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its Minister of External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. As Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, the Honorable Mahfud MD led a 25-member Indonesian delegation that included senior Muslim scholars and representatives of other faiths including Roman Catholicism and Hinduism. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_22_The Times of Israel

Geopolitical Analyst Dr. James M. Dorsey, writing in The Times of Israel:

“Major Muslim and Hindu organisations are battling to define the role of religion in global politics”

WEST JERUSALEM, Israel — On 22 November 2022, leading international affairs expert Dr. James M. Dorsey published an in-depth analysis of the recently concluded G20 Religion Forum (R20) and its geopolitical ramifications. Writing in The Times of Israel, a multi-language newspaper that documents developments in Israel, the Middle East, and around the Jewish world, Dr. Dorsey argued that the R20 “positioned Nahdlatul Ulama. . . . as a leading force in defining moderate Islam and promoting concepts of genuine religious reform not only of Islam but also of other major faiths such as Hinduism.”

Dr. Dorsey went on to observe that “from Nahdlatul Ulama’s perspective, jurisprudential reform of religious law is the key to positioning religion ‘as a source of solutions, not problems.’”

The article, titled “Behind lofty declarations, major Muslim and Hindu groups compete for power,” describes Nahdlatul Ulama’s engagement with the Muslim World League — which NU invited to co-host the R20 — as “a bold but risky strategy that also underlies Nahdlatul Ulama’s engagement with Hindu nationalism.” Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_09_The Hill

German Marshall Fund scholar hails the G20 Religion Forum (R20) as “the world’s most important interfaith venue”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On 9 November 2022, The Hill, a top U.S. political newspaper that is widely read by Washington insiders, published an article describing the newly established G20 Religion Forum (R20) as “hugely significant” and “in just its first year, the world’s most important interfaith venue.”

According to the author, Muddassar Ahmed, a visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund:

A remarkable transformation has been taking place in the Muslim world, a years-long shift towards pluralism and tolerance belying common assumptions about Islam.

Maybe we missed this earlier: A lot has been going on, after all. But last week in Bali, at the G20’s ground-breaking Religion Forum, the R20, that transformation took center stage. Not only is it an epochal moment in modern Islam, but this moment also helped create the world’s most important interfaith conversation. 

By expanding beyond the G7 to the G20 — the world’s 20 largest economies — the developed world has created more space for non-Western populations to enter the space of global governance and bring their perspectives and insights with them. That extends to India, with the world’s largest Hindu population and a massive Muslim minority, as well as three Muslim-majority countries: Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

Over the course of a week in Bali, I watched, spellbound. Three hundred senior leaders from the world’s major faith traditions explored how to interject religious frameworks into questions of global governance. . . .

It’s not only the world’s many people of faith who gain from having their religious leaders exposed to high-level political conversations that connect the West and other parts of the world. The same can be said for secular leaders enriched by the insights of faith leaders they might never have otherwise interacted with — how, after all, can Western leaders pursue global challenges without understanding what shapes most global sentiments?

But what if I told you that’s not the most important thing about the R20? Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_03_R20 Bali Communiqué

The G20 Religion Forum (R20)
Final Communiqué

“[T]he R20 is mobilizing religious, social, economic, and political leaders from throughout the world to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems.
~ R20 Bali Communiqué, point 3

BALI, Indonesia, 3 November 2022 — Following two days of intense and substantive discussion among over 400 religious leaders and scholars gathered from around the world and across its major faith traditions, the first annual G20 Religion Forum, or R20, issued a final communiqué. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_03_Handover Ceremony

R20 Plenary Session 7: Handover Ceremony

“See you in India!”

“I think R20 has set in motion a tectonic force here in Bali. From Bali it will go to India, from there to Brazil, from there onwards to wherever G20 is held.”
~ Sri Ram Madhav Varanasi

BALI, Indonesia — Formal deliberations at the R20 Summit in Bali concluded with an official handover ceremony on the afternoon of 3 November 2022. KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf, Founder and Chairman of the R20, passed the R20 banner to prominent Hindu leaders, who will host the R20 Summit during India’s 2023 presidency of the G20. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_03_R20 Plenary Session 6

G20 Religion Forum (R20) Plenary Session 6:

Spiritual Ecology:
Fostering Balance within Nature and Society

“A creation-inflected spirituality means that we celebrate the divine presence within all of God’s creatures, however we spell out the details of that presence. A sense of spirituality is precisely that which brings us closer to an appreciation of nature and a sense of awe before its wonders.”
~ Keynote Address by Rabbi Arthur Green

BALI, Indonesia — On the afternoon of 3 November 2022, Nahdlatul Ulama religious leaders announced the launch of the Spiritual Ecology movement during Plenary Session 6 of the R20 Summit. The opening speaker was Kyai Haji Jadul Maula, Chairman of the Institute of Indonesian Muslim Cultural Artists, or Lesbumi — an autonomous branch of the world’s largest Muslim organization.

Established in 1962, Lesbumi was originally intended to safeguard and strengthen traditional artistic communities that were threatened by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), whose “People’s Cultural Institute” (Lekra) sought to harness all artistic expression in the service of an atheistic, Marxist-Leninist agenda.

In recent decades, Lesbumi has vigorously defended traditional artistic communities threatened by the spread of Wahhabi/Muslim Brotherhood ideology, which demonizes the diverse cultural expressions of Islam Nusantara (“East Indies Islam”).

The symbol of Lesbumi (depicted above) is based on the gunungan (“mountain”, a.k.a. kayon, or “tree”), which constitutes an essential element of Javanese shadow puppet theater, or wayang kulit. Its shape reminiscent of a “fire mountain,” or volcano, the gunungan symbolizes the universe. Surrounded by wild animals, the kayon symbolizes the “cosmic tree,” which emerges from the Void (“suwung”) of the “Divine Being that encompasses all things” (“Hyang Maha Segalanya”). Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_03_R20 Plenary Session 5

G20 Religion Forum (R20) Plenary Session 5:

What values do we need to develop to ensure peaceful co-existence?

“I believe that we can readily identify shared civilization-building ethical norms… that work against a clash of civilizations in the same way as the right medicine from our doctors can effectively counteract disease in our bodies.”
~ Rev. Professor Thomas K. Johnson

Rev. Dr. Paolo Benanti displaying a “deepfake” video of actor Morgan Freeman, generated by artificial intelligence, during Rev. Benanti’s presentation in Plenary Session 5

BALI, Indonesia, 3 November 2022 — The fifth plenary session of the R20 Summit featured a diverse array of religious leaders, scholars, and activists who discussed “the importance of developing a global consensus regarding shared values that the world’s diverse cultures will need to embrace if they are to co-exist peacefully” (R20 Founding Chairman KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf).

Speakers addressed a wide range of topics, including the need to bring moral and spiritual values to bear in institutional and governmental decision making; the threat to human dignity and freedom posed by artificial intelligence; the resurgence of tribalism worldwide; and the 2020 report of the US Department of State’s Commission on Unalienable Rights. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_03_R20 Plenary Session 4

R20 Plenary Session 4:

What values do our respective traditions need to relinquish to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems?

“Traditional religions travel heavy and do not throw texts away. They may think that they do not use a given problematic text anymore, so they lay it aside, but it returns. And in every generation, we may have to reread it again, and again.”
~ Keynote Address by Rabbi Alan Brill

BALI, Indonesia — On the morning of 3 November 2022, prominent religious leaders and scholars gathered at the R20 Summit to discuss teachings embedded within their respective religions that are, or were, incompatible with peaceful coexistence and a rules-based international order founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being.

In his keynote address delivered at the opening plenary of the G20 Religion Forum (R20), NU Chairman KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf invited the world’s religious leaders to join Nahdlatul Ulama in an open and honest discussion about “what values our respective traditions need to relinquish, to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems, in the 21st century.” Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_02_R20 Plenary Session 3

G20 Religion Forum (R20) Plenary Session 3:

Historical grievances, truth-telling, reconciliation, and forgiveness

“If we are to proceed beyond the surface talk and shallow agreement typical of most interfaith gatherings, and truly be worthy to contribute to global discussions and decision-making, we must first confront the violent sectarianism amongst us.
~ Keynote address by Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda

BALI, Indonesia, 2 November 2022 — A diverse panel of religious leaders and scholars from the Middle East, South Asia, Europe, North and South America, and the Caribbean convened on the first day of the R20 Summit for a candid and wide-ranging conversation about the injustices that religious communities have inflicted upon each other throughout history. Their conversation was directly inspired by R20 Founding Chairman KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf, whose address to the opening plenary urged religious leaders “to engage in honest discourse” and “acknowledge the problems that befall us so that we can find a way out of identity-based conflict.”

In his remarks, Mr. Staquf observed:

For centuries, human civilization has grappled with the reality of strife between religious communities. Today, we inherit a situation in which people of different faiths are engaged in competition, antagonism, and conflict motivated by religion. We still witness this crisis of conflict across the world: in West Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and even in Europe and America. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_02_R20 Plenary Session 2

G20 Religion Forum (R20) Plenary Session 2:

Identifying and embracing values shared by the world’s major religions and civilizations

“The aspirations of the R20 are ambitious and the obstacles great…. [but] the time is right for a multicultural, multinational effort to broaden and deepen the quest for shared civilizational values.”
~ Keynote address by Professor Mary Ann Glendon

Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs, the Honorable Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, addressing the R20’s second plenary session

BALI, Indonesia, 2 November 2022 — A diverse array of religious, political, business, and academic leaders gathered on the first day of the R20 Summit to discuss the urgent need to identify “shared values common to all religions, which may become the basic reference point from which we can embark upon a joint endeavor. . . to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of global solutions rather than problems” (R20 Founding Chairman KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf).

The second plenary session began with a keynote address titled “The Quest for Shared Civilizational Values,” delivered by Harvard Law Professor and former US Ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon. Author of the book, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Professor Glendon is a leading expert on the emergence of the post-World War II human rights project. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_02_R20 Plenary Session 1

G20 Religion Forum (R20) Opening Session

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia addresses R20 participants:
“[R]eligious leaders of different faiths and nations must work together to strengthen religion’s contribution to solving the world’s problems, reduce rivalry, end conflict, and achieve a peaceful, united world.”

BALI, Indonesia, 2 November 2022 — Over 400 religious leaders and scholars from around the world gathered for the first annual R20 Summit, which the Government of Indonesia welcomed as an official “main event” during its Presidency of the G20. Reflecting the profound spirituality characteristic of Nusantara (“East Indies,” or Indonesian) civilization, the R20 was carefully designed to infuse the world’s political and economic power structures with moral and spiritual (i.e., religious) values, rather than instrumentalize religion to serve a purely secular agenda.

Frankly acknowledging that religion has often contributed to identity-based conflict, both throughout history and in the present day, Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama founded the G20 Religion Forum (R20) in order to “help ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems, in the 21st century.”

This communiqué provides extensive excerpts from addresses delivered on the morning of Thursday, 2 November 2022, during the R20’s opening session. These excerpts are intended to allow readers — including religious leaders, policy makers, scholars, journalists, and other interested parties — to readily access and understand the substantive nature of the R20’s agenda and of the presentations delivered by prominent religious leaders at the R20 Summit in Bali. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_10_31_R20 Spiritual Ecology Movement

Muslim and Hindu Leaders Launch Spiritual Ecology Movement at Historic R20 Gathering in Bali

Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami:
“Dharma is that which upholds the whole universe.
Similarly, spiritual ecology is that which protects the whole of creation.”

BALI, Indonesia — On the afternoon of 31 October 2022, religious leaders met to break new ground by launching a global “spiritual ecology movement” to foster balance within nature and society. The event was held at Puja Mandala, a religious complex consisting of five houses of worship built side-by-side, including a Hindu temple, a mosque, Protestant and Catholic churches, and a Buddhist vihara.

The gathering began with a ritual purification ceremony and offerings made by Balinese Hindu priests (photograph below) prior to the planting of twenty trees considered sacred within Hindu cosmology. This ceremony and tree planting are believed to enliven the spiritual unity that connects all of creation and thereby secure harmony and balance between the seen and unseen worlds. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_10_02_Religious Soft Power

Indonesia’s Religious Soft Power on Display in the Middle East

As Qatar doubles down on its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudi-based Muslim World League has “forged an unlikely alliance with Nahdlatul Ulama”
Indonesia’s “Nahdlatul Ulama is arguably the world’s only mass movement propagating a genuinely moderate and pluralistic form of Islam”

DOHA, Qatar and MECCA, Saudi Arabia — The fierce competition for religious soft power between Middle East nations was on stark display in September with the announcement of diametrically opposed initiatives by major Islamic organizations backed by the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Reflecting the growing influence of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesian religious leaders are at the heart of both initiatives.

As reported by geopolitical analyst Dr. James Dorsey, on 10 September:

[F]ormer Indonesian Minister of Social Affairs Habib Salim Segaf Al-Jufri was named Secretary General of the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), founded by controversial Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the world’s foremost Muslim theologians associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Al-Qaradawi died on Monday in Doha at the age of 96.

Intriguingly, Mr. Al-Jufri, a senior member of Indonesia’s Brotherhood-affiliated Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), also represents the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) in East and Southeast Asia, a Saudi government-funded organization initially established in the 1970s to promote Saudi religious ultra-conservatism globally.

Arab commentators have described Al-Jufri as a Muslim Brotherhood loyalist and argue that his election reflects not only the difficulties confronting the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East, but also the group’s hope to expand its footprint in Southeast Asia. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_09_23_Official Statement by the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board

Official Statement of the NU Central Board Regarding R20 and Ongoing Discussions with India & RSS

“Nahdlatul Ulama encourages people of good will of every faith and nation to reject the weaponization of identity”

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board has published an official statement that outlines the vision and objectives of the newly-established G20 Religion Forum (R20), and its approach to interreligious conflict.

Signed by NU Chairman, KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf, and its General Secretary, H. Saifullah Yusuf, the document states:

Nahdlatul Ulama believes that the only way to overcome entrenched historical grievances and promote peaceful co-existence is to engage all parties and refuse to indulge in the sentiment of enmity and hatred, based upon a claim of unique communal victimhood. 

Nahdlatul Ulama is aware of the potential for genocide in South Asia, not only because of contemporary geopolitical dynamics, but also due to the history of the region, including the Bangladesh genocide of 1971; the massacres that accompanied Partition in 1947; British colonial policies of divide and rule; and centuries of invasion from the northwest, accompanied by massive destruction, slaughter, and enslavement. Even the Emperor Ashoka is known for his massacre of over 100,000 inhabitants of Kalinga during the third century B.C.E., prior to his conversion to Buddhism. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_08_14_G20 Religion Forum and the Muslim World League

G20 Religion Forum (R20):

“Helping to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems”

Nahdlatul Ulama invites Muslim World League Secretary General to co-chair R20 Summit

JAKARTA, Indonesia and RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The official host of this year’s G20 Summit — the Republic of Indonesia, led by popular two-term President Joko Widodo — has decided to place religion and religious leaders near the center of geopolitical discourse for the first time in the history of the G20.

The world’s largest Muslim organization, Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, established the G20 Religion Forum (R20) in order to “help ensure that religion in the 21st century functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems.”

In order to fulfill this vision, the R20 will mobilize diverse religious, political and economic leaders from G20 Member States and elsewhere throughout the world “to prevent the weaponization of identity; curtail the spread of communal hatred; promote solidarity and respect among the diverse peoples, cultures and nations of the world; and foster the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being.” Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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