H.E. Ambassador Tran Trong Toan,
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to extend a warm welcome to all the speakers and participants, who have journeyed all the way from respective home countries to Yogyakarta for this momentous event.

May I also express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Provincial Government and people of Yogyakarta for their unflinching support and assistance that has made the convening of this forum possible.

I could imagine the challenges that the Provincial Government had to deal with in hosting this Symposium and contributing to its successful conclusion, especially when the province is still recovering from the tragedy of earthquake that took place last May. In that light, allow me, once again, to extend my personal and deepest gratitude for the support as well as the hard work.

I would also like to thank the Department of Culture and Tourism for its valuable assistance in organizing this forum.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I commend the convening of this APEC Inter-Cultural and Faith Symposium. It is an initiative which, in my view, is instrumental in the development of mutual understanding and common interests drawn from the lavish cultural and faith diversities of the APEC region.

The theme that has been chosen for this Symposium, namely "Building Mutual Trust and Acceptance for the Stability and Prosperity of the APEC Region," is a fitting one indeed. This is precisely why we are here. We are committed to promoting dialogues.

One might want to question whether inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogues have something to do with APEC that focuses its activities on economic collaboration. Is it really important to promote such dialogues in a forum driven by economic interests like APEC?

I do not have all the answers to those questions. But, there are historical examples that could convince us that socio-political and economic conditions are mutually influential. And in the world of high interconnectivity and interdependence like today, I believe that there is greater logic within the linkage between socio-political stability and progress made in the economic sector.

History has taught us many important lessons. The Thirty Years' War that was rooted in a religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants in the seventeenth century of Europe, for example, caused devastating effects on the life of most Europeans.

The war brought about 15 to 20 per cent of mortality rate, austere famine, and epidemic diseases, known as, among others, Hungarian disease and Bubonic plague. Economy of the continent was of course disrupted and its population was dislocated.

At the local level, we learn well how religion-driven conflicts such as in the Northern Ireland and in Indonesian cities of Ambon and Poso, had caused social stagnancy and economic paralysis. In order to render normal life, post-conflict reconstruction efforts, which are not always inexpensive, will be required.

In current world where globalization is getting thicker, socio-political stability and economic progress in a state or region become more interdependent. As far as the APEC region is concerned, socio-political stability of the region is essential to the creation of a condition favourable for the achievement of the APEC goals as outlined, among others, in the Bogor Declaration.

The APEC region, recognized as the most dynamic one in the world, is the abode of diverse religions and faiths. There are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism as well as Bahá'i Faith, Confucianism, Jainism, Shamanism, Sikhism, Shinto, Taoism, and the native religions of the Americas.

APEC lends its strength to its diversity and inclusiveness, where a variety of cultures and all the major faiths are represented. And yet, it is in this very diversity and inclusiveness that the great potential for misunderstandings and tensions between the different cultures and faiths resides.

Many analysts hold the view that the possibility of religion and faith-based conflicts at a regional scale seems to be low in the Asia-Pacific in five or ten years ahead. In spite of this estimate, we cannot underestimate the possible emergence of circumstances that could fortify religious extremism that eventually leads to more serious discord among peoples in the region.

Conflict, no matter what makes it happen, is a strenuous and costly venture. It exhausts resources that could be diverted and used for achieving economic development and social progresses.

Under a conflict situation, people are fearful and generally take no chance to risk their lives just to go out to work. Normal mechanism of supply and demand chain that upholds the economic foundation of a society will not operate under such a circumstance. What is more, only in a peaceful and stable condition can commercial activities be meaningful and enlarging.

I believe that a forum for dialogue like this will not only promote mutual understanding and trust as well as common concerns but also develop a groundwork that could allow peace in the APEC region to sustain in a durable manner and prevent the conditions that set faith-based conflicts in motion from surfacing.

This is, I think, the very cause of our exertions and commitment to the promotion of inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue among peoples of the APEC economies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me now to shed some lights on the commitment of Indonesia to the advancement of inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue and on what we have done so far to realize that commitment.

Our experiences in Ambon and Poso reaffirm the paramount significance of continuous dialogues among different faiths and consistent efforts to promote constructive pluralism.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has placed dialogue among faiths a critical priority in his agenda. In 2004, in this same city, Indonesia hosted the convening of an International Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation, and in 2005 we hosted the ASEM Interfaith Dialogue.

The commitment of Indonesia to the promotion of inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue is also reflected in our activism on this matter in other frameworks, including the United Nations and of course APEC.

We believe that interfaith-dialogue is too important to be left just to the good hand of governments. We attach great importance to the role that non-governmental actors can play in the creation of a society where all faiths co-exist harmoniously.

In that light, the Government has supported the initiatives proposed by various civil society groups that include, among others, the International Conference of Islamic Scholars sponsored by Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, and World Peace Forum hosted by Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim organization in the country.

Our efforts to promote inter-faith harmony through dialogues have also been bolstered by the flourishing of moderation. We believe that the chance for faith-based conflicts to come out is greater when extremism is triumphant and moderation is curbed.

Moderation is an inherent component of the Indonesian way of life. Since early history, the culture of sharing and behaving in a moderate way has been operating as a response to the pluralistic nature of the archipelago which is in the present time known as Indonesia.

There is no record of callous conflicts caused by religious disagreement in the history of Indonesia. Before Islam came into Indonesia, Hinduism and Buddhism had already been there for hundreds of years. As depicted in the lengthy fourteen-century Javanese poem Nagarakertagama by Prapanca, for long Shivaite Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism co-existed harmoniously and their influences on private and public life were complementary. There were no records of faith-based extremism emerging during that period.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am convinced that through this APEC Intercultural and Faith Symposium, APEC can play a greater role in deepening the spirit of community in the Asia-Pacific region. This is nothing but an effort to go beyond economic parameters in accomplishing the APEC goals. This, in my view, will help APEC come to grip with matters that affect the common good of society and the socio-political environment within which economic and trade activities are operating.

Today is the first step in what hopefully will become a thriving collaboration among governments and peoples of the APEC economies in the promotion of inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue. Today, we have the opportunity to exchange views on how to build the socio-political foundation of the APEC cooperation based on the principles of non-violence, justice, freedom, moderation, tolerance, balance, consultation, and equity.

It is my sincere wish that through this symposium, we would be able to foster mutual understanding and mutual respect as well as advance practical cooperation in the framework of our cooperation as a basis for the attainment of a community of APEC economies.

Finally, I genuinely hope that this gathering will not conclude as a one time occasion, but it should become a sustainable forum that generates concrete actions. I am also hopeful that this initiative will not only complement but also strengthen other activities addressing the same subject, and will become an important part of the global web of cooperation aimed to promote faith-based peace and harmony.

I thank you.