Spreading unity through song in one of the world’s most divided cities. On October 9, 2018, the Asia Society—founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller III—honored the social music initiative Koolulam with its coveted “Game Changer Award,” in recognition of the group’s collaboration with Bayt ar-Rahmah, Jerusalem.com and the Tower of David Museum, which allowed its site in Jerusalem’s old city to be used free of charge in the production of an historic music video.
The award-winning video—created in honor of NU General Secretary KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf’s visit to Jerusalem—is part of a comprehensive, global campaign to transform religion from a political weapon into a source of universal love and compassion, coordinated by LibForAll and Bayt ar-Rahmah.
Indonesian Muslim Leader Delivers a “Message of Compassion,” and Reconciliation, from the Holy City of Jerusalem. Following a high-profile visit to the United States in May of 2018—which entailed substantive meetings with VPOTUS and other senior U.S. government officials—the General Secretary of the world’s largest Muslim organization, Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), elicited widespread praise and a firestorm of controversy by visiting Jerusalem from June 9 – 15 2018, where he delivered a message of rahmah (universal love and compassion) in a series of public speeches and meetings with senior Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
Middle East expert James Dorsey observed that Mr. Staquf’s “series of meetings in recent weeks [in Washington, DC and Jerusalem] signal a global shift” in geopolitical dynamics, with the NU General Secretary “promoting the concept of rahma[h] or compassion and mercy as the basis for a solution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict and the forging of relations between Israel and the Muslim world.”
Nobel Peace Prize Nomination Recognizes the Contribution of Indonesian Islam to Peace and Democracy. On January 17 and 25, 2019, Gadjah Mada University (UGM)—Indonesia’s preeminent institution of higher learning—held a pair of high-profile events to accompany the launch of a global campaign to nominate the world’s largest Muslim organizations for the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of their unique contributions to Islamic democracy and global conflict resolution. Nobel laureate H.E. José Ramos-Horta delivered a keynote address to a packed audience at the UGM Faculty Senate auditorium, at which he declared: “Having visited 134 nations during the course of my lifetime, I can state with certainty that I have never found a single model like that which you have in Indonesia. Indonesia deserves to become a model for the world to emulate.”
Both events featured Dr. M. Najib Azca, the director of UGM’s Center for Security and Peace Studies (PSKP), who announced the launch of a book entitled Two Peacemakers: The Role and Contributions of the Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama to Peace and Democracy, which was written by PSKP’s research team.
The enduring contribution to democracy and world peace of Indonesia’s first democratically-elected president and former NU Chairman H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid is a major theme of the book, which demonstrates how the visionary leader’s legacy has continued to evolve even after his death, inspiring a burgeoning global movement for Humanitarian Islam and the reform of problematic tenets of Islamic orthodoxy. LibForAll Foundation’s and Bayt ar-Rahmah’s work is extensively referenced in the book, in conjunction with the 2019 nomination of the Nahdlatul Ulama for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“A peaceful Islamic narrative amidst. . . the fratricidal chaos of the Arab world.”
~ Two Peacemakers
Read about the socio-cultural, religious and historical background from which the Humanitarian Islam movement emerged: Islam Nusantara (East Indies Islam)
World’s largest Muslim organization promotes European unity. On January 31 and February 1, 2019, Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf led an official delegation to address the European Parliament’s center-left and center-right political groupings at the invitation of Portuguese Socialist Party MEP Ana Maria Gomes and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).
Visiting in his capacity as a member of Indonesia’s Presidential Advisory Council, with a protocol rank equivalent to Minister of State, Mr. Staquf’s Brussels visit is part of a systematic effort by the spiritual leadership of the Nahdlatul Ulama — who are spearheading a global Humanitarian Islam movement — to expand the range of acceptable political discourse about Islam in Europe and to address legitimate national security threats, while tempering the dangers inherent within populism.
“Engage in honest discourse about Islam, to end the cycle of religious supremacism, separatism, and terror that has polarized European societies, and may trigger widespread civil unrest.”
~ KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf
Muslim scholar’s call for “honest discussion” elicits a global response, and is praised for offering a “way forward” in the aftermath of Christchurch terror attacks. On March 25, 2019, Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf responded to the brutal slaughter of 50 Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand. Writing in The Telegraph, a prestigious newspaper with close links to Britain’s governing Conservative Party, Mr. Staquf urged people of all faiths and none to go through the “uncomfortable” process of “resolutely acknowledging the causal factors of the violence that we are seeing in so many parts of the world,” and summon the courage to ask “questions that require difficult but honest answers.” The article, entitled “To prevent another Christchurch, Islam must confront the attacks in its name that have radicalized the West,” was welcomed by policy experts, journalists, opinion leaders, and government officials for encouraging discourse about a highly-fraught and complex phenomenon that threatens all humanity.
Abrahamic Faiths Initiative: “Religions should serve as a basis for resolving problems, not creating them.” From 14 – 16 January 2020, eighteen Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders gathered to explore potential avenues of cooperation between the various Abrahamic faiths, in order to address a rapidly metastasizing global crisis that is strongly colored by animosity and violence between rival ethnic and religious groups. The two-day event, convened at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome under Chatham House Rule, included prominent religious scholars and the heads of major faith communities from Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America.
Participants included Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and all Palestine; Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf (“Gus Yahya”), General Secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Supreme Council; prominent Shi’ite scholar Sayyed Yousif al-Khoei; Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, Chairman of the UAE Fatwa Council; Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee; Reverend Thomas K. Johnson, who serves as the World Evangelical Alliance’s Special Envoy to the Vatican and to Humanitarian Islam; and Sam Brownback, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
On the evening of Wednesday, January 15, AFI participants visited Pope Francis at his private residence in Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican, where they discussed a wide range of issues for over an hour. During their conversation, NU General Secretary KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf and Pope Francis discussed the possibility of His Holiness visiting the world’s fourth most populous nation and its largest Muslim-majority democracy.
NU Chairman Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf: “Holocaust remembrance serves as a memorial and vivid reminder of the cruelty, violence and suffering that so many human beings. . . have, for thousands of years, inflicted upon others.” On January 27, 2022, KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf — newly elected Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board — joined global leaders in commemorating the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which takes place every year on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945.
In doing so, Mr. Staquf is walking in the footsteps of his predecessor and mentor, H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, who convened the historic Bali Holocaust Conference in 2007 to reject “The Evils of Holocaust Denial“ and affirm religion as a source of universal love and compassion (rahmah).
As KH. Abdurrahman Wahid once said, “Our acknowledging the Holocaust and the historical antecedents to the establishment of Israel does not mean that we are taking the side of Israel against Palestine, or Jews against Arabs. Rather, we seek to foster reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims — by employing the noblest values of religion in search of peace.”
General Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens the current world order.” On February 24, 2022, shortly after the Russian Federation launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, the Chairman of the world’s largest Muslim organization described the attack as a profound threat to the post-World War II international order and called for a global response to Russia’s violation of Ukrainian territory.
Yahya Cholil Staquf, General Chairman of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, said that the attack also risks undermining stability within the Islamic world by normalizing aggression between states — a practice that was widespread throughout human history prior to the United Nations Charter of 1945.
India Today – Cover Story: “A more inclusive and humanitarian Islam on the lines of the one promoted by organisations like Nahdlatul Ulama. . . must be the way forward.” The most widely circulated magazine in India, with a readership of close to 8 million, has published a cover story advocating the embrace of “a more inclusive and humanitarian Islam” by Indian Muslims, in order to help bridge that nation’s deepening communal divide.
Authored by Hindu social and political leader Sri Ram Madhav, the essay was one of seven commissioned by India’s leading news magazine, in the midst of rising polarization in a country with the world’s second-largest Muslim population and a highly popular Hindu nationalist government, which has been widely criticized by Western media and human rights organizations for its treatment of religious minorities.
Mr. Madhav, the former National General Secretary of India’s ruling political party, BJP, was recently described by a prominent Western observer as a moderate alternative to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has been accused of expressing anti-Muslim sentiments. “I personally think [Ram] is smart and world-savvy,” wrote the observer, “and is the most compelling BJP candidate to succeed [Narendra] Modi” as India’s Prime Minister.
Major Hindu social and political leader concludes that Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama may hold the key to overcoming obstacles to Muslim integration in Europe and elsewhere. Writing in India Today — South Asia’s leading news magazine — Sri Ram Madhav Varanasi, significantly acknowledged that dangerous forms of “anti-Islamist radicalism” have emerged among non-Muslim populations in many parts of the world, triggered in part by Islamist separatism, supremacism, and violence. Mr. Madhav concludes his article by calling for “enlightened citizens and governments of the world” to combat Islamic radicalism through a serious and responsible program of reform, and thereby avert a catastrophic eruption of identity-based violence.
“NU leadership has fearlessly championed the cause of Islamic reform”
~ Sri Ram Madhav Varanasi,
former National General Secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
Major Indian media outlets praise NU and the G20 Religion Forum (R20). Leading Indian news outlets have published a pair of articles that highlight the newly established G20 Religion Forum and the potential role of Islam Nusantara (“East Indies Islam”) in countering Islamist extremism in India, whose Muslim population is second only to that of Indonesia.
“Islam Nusantara aims to transform the role of religion from being a source of conflict and hatred to a wellspring of compassion and collaboration”
~ The Print
“The NU is taking a unique and significant initiative of organising R-20 (Religions-20) on the sidelines of G-20, which is going to be hosted by the Indonesian government in [November] this year. R-20 will bring together leaders of all the important world religions to assist the leaders of G-20 governments in building a united, pluralist and peaceful world.”
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.”
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.
Nahdlatul Ulama encourages people of good will of every faith and nation to reject the weaponization of identity and join in promoting solidarity and respect among the diverse peoples, cultures, and nations of the world — employing the principle of ‘the highest common denominator,’ founded upon the noblest aspirations of every civilization. This is the mission of the G20 Religion Forum (R20), both now and in future years.
G20 Religion Forum (R20) Plenary Session 3. 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.”
“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
Building Peace Between Palestine and Israel, on the Basis of Sunni Islamic Jurisprudence for a Global Civilization and Jewish Law. Indonesia’s flagship International Islamic University (UIII) served as the venue for a wide-ranging discussion of the prospects for building peace between Palestine and Israel, through the reform of obsolete and problematic tenets of both Islamic, and Jewish, orthodoxy. The Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board (PBNU) initiated and co-sponsored the event — advocating a novel approach to fostering Middle East peace.