HRH Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, Governor of Yogyakarta, Indonesia,
Ambassador Primo Alui Joelianto, Indonesia's Senior Official for APEC,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

 

It is a great honour for me, on behalf of the APEC Secretariat, to attend this important Inter-Cultural and Faith Symposium. It is highly meaningful that the Symposium is taking place here in the magnificent city of Yogyakarta, also known as the City of Tolerance, in the neighbourhood of Borobudur, one of Indonesia's world-famous cultural heritage sites.

 

I would like to express my warmest congratulations and appreciation to the Indonesian Government for undertaking the Inter-Cultural and Faith Initiative and hosting this Symposium as a first step of its implementation. I would also like to extend our thanks to the Government and people of Yogyakarta for their hospitality and excellent arrangements, which are essential to the success of this important APEC event.

 

Inter-Cultural and Faith Dialogue - A rationale

 

The Asia-Pacific region is home to 59 per cent of the world's population and is proud to be one of the richest and most diverse regions in terms of history, religion and cultural traditions. The successful implementation of APEC's long-term and noble vision of building an Asia-Pacific community requires us to promote our region's unity in diversity. This is our greatest mission. In fact, this sense of building a regional community has been acknowledged and prioritized at the highest levels of the APEC process in many consecutive years, including at Blake Island (1993), Vancouver (1997), Brunei Darussalam (2000), Los Cabos (2002), Santiago (2004) and Busan (2005). With a view to accomplishing this mission, we must accommodate the challenge of ensuring mutual understanding and acceptance, cooperation and moderation in our approach to differences of opinions and cultural backgrounds. We need concerted and collective efforts to ensure that economic growth in our region, currently among the highest globally, can be sustained in a secure and stable multi-cultural environment.

 

The question has been raised as to why should APEC, a regional forum devoted to the goals of free and open trade and investment, concern itself with matters of culture and faith?

 

The answer is three-fold:

 

Firstly, the key to doing business and expanding trade and investment in such a multi-cultural environment as the Asia-Pacific is to understand each other - our histories, cultural traditions, and yes, our sensitivities - in order to have a meeting of minds and feelings at all levels. Better mutual understanding will provide a more stable foundation for trade and business relationships. The key to doing business and expanding trade and investment in such a multi-cultural environment as the Asia-Pacific is to understand each other - our histories, cultural traditions, and yes, our sensitivities - in order to have a meeting of minds and feelings at all levels. Better mutual understanding will provide a more stable foundation for trade and business relationships.

Secondly, through improved mutual understanding among cultures, religions and faiths, we can promote increased trust, respect and sense of moderation and tolerance as advocated in the United Nations, thus helping to reduce extremist activities in order to ensure a safe and secure business environment in the region.

The key to doing business and expanding trade and investment in such a multi-cultural environment as the Asia-Pacific is to understand each other - our histories, cultural traditions, and yes, our sensitivities - in order to have a meeting of minds and feelings at all levels. Better mutual understanding will provide a more stable foundation for trade and business relationships. , through improved mutual understanding among cultures, religions and faiths, we can promote increased trust, respect and sense of moderation and tolerance as advocated in the United Nations, thus helping to reduce extremist activities in order to ensure a safe and secure business environment in the region.

 

Thirdly, in view of the historical legacies and cultural diversity for the region, building a mutual understanding, and through it, mutual trust and respect is indispensable for the implementation of APEC's vision of an Asia-Pacific community based on the shared interest of stability, security and prosperity.

, in view of the historical legacies and cultural diversity for the region, building a mutual understanding, and through it, mutual trust and respect is indispensable for the implementation of APEC's vision of an Asia-Pacific community based on the shared interest of stability, security and prosperity.

 

Significance of the Yogyakarta Symposium

 

Against this background, it is of great significance for our region that Indonesia, in collaboration with other co-sponsors, namely Russia and the United States, is organizing this first APEC Inter-Cultural and Faith Symposium with the theme "Building mutual trust, understanding, and respect for the achievement of stability and prosperity of the APEC region". Under this theme, a number of important issues and priorities will be intensively and extensively discussed during the Symposium. They include:

  • Exploring current trends and issues relating to culture, faith and civilizations in the Asia-Pacific region;

  • Expanding linkages with other initiatives on Inter-Cultural and Faith Dialogue including outcomes of previous meetings held within the region; and

  • Sharing case studies on current approaches by governments, faith leaders, academics and civil societies, to build a culture of tolerance and peace.

  • On the basis of broad and comprehensive discussions and exchange of ideas on those and other relevant issues, this Symposium will come up with important recommendations to build and maintain mutual understanding, trust and respect among different cultures and faiths, which are instrumental for the achievements of APEC's vision of stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. It is equally important that the outcomes and message from the Symposium identifying the importance of mutual understanding and tolerance as the bedrock of economic cooperation and growth be disseminated fully and effectively to all stakeholders in the region.

     

    In this common endeavor, we have no illusion that the building of mutual understanding and trust, tolerance and a sense of community will be achieved overnight. Rather, we still have a long way to go. We will not be able to measure the results of our efforts immediately, but this Symposium will be the start of a necessary and valuable process.

     

    The outcomes of this Inter-Cultural and Faith Dialogue will certainly contribute, in a significant way, to advancing of one of the priorities of the APEC Viet Nam Year 2006, that is to promote linkages in the APEC community through broader cultural cooperation and tourism exchanges. Together with last year's successful APEC film festival as well as the photographic exhibition, film festival and Tourism Ministerial Meeting to be held in Viet Nam in the last quarter of this year, the Symposium is a continuation of APEC activities intended to strengthen regional cooperation in this important area. This represents a timely step forward in our efforts to strengthen the sense of community across the Asia-Pacific region, which Viet Nam has been particularly active in promoting in the current APEC year under the theme "Towards a Dynamic Community for Sustainable Development and Prosperity".

     

    A value added to the regional initiatives

     

    The Asia-Pacific region has long been known for the complexity of its social structure where people of different, histories, cultures, religions and faiths coexist. This complexity might lead to clashes and instability unless properly managed. Realizing this potential danger, over the past few years, much work has been conducted in the region with a view to improving mutual understanding among different cultures, religions and faiths. This includes the "Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation: Community Building and Harmony" held in Yogyakarta in December 2004, the "Asia-Europe Meeting Inter-Faith Dialogue" held in Bali in July 2005, and the "Declaration of the Cebu Dialogue on Regional Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, Development and Human Dignity" in Cebu on 16 March this year.

     

    What all of these initiatives have in common with APEC's efforts is a focus on meeting the challenge posed by misunderstanding, suspicion and lack of tolerance, and seeking to bridge the differences between various groups in our societies. It is no secret that in this decade we have faced numerous challenges, both at the global and regional level, in this field which require a holistic and wise approach to achieve a solution. When these challenges arise, some commentators revive Samuel Huntington's thesis of the inexorable clash of civilizations to discuss everything from violent acts of terrorism through to controversies about freedom of expression and so on.

     

    Perhaps it would be wiser and more constructive to ask whether such a clash can occur at all, when the parties involved know and understand each other. The dialogue initiatives we have seen in this region, with our own APEC symposium the latest among them, seek to answer this question with a proactive "no" - misunderstandings and intolerance should not occur, and can be avoided , if we improve this level of mutual understanding and respect.

     

    A very practical question, which has become apparent during our preparations for this APEC project, is how these different Dialogue mechanisms can complement one another and add value, without duplicating efforts within the region. One answer to that question lies in the sheer geographic breadth of the APEC community - encompassing ASEAN, North Asia, Australasia, the Pacific and parts of Latin America, reaching from Borobudur to Beijing, Port Moresby to Pennsylvania, Machu Picu to Melbourne and Moscow. No other forum can take this Inter-faith message to such a wide audience of government officials, leaders of religion and faith, academics and, most importantly, our citizens of every culture and belief in each Member Economy. Learning from the Dialogues, which have taken place so far in Yogyakarta, Cebu and Bali, APEC can convey this message through the many fora and networks, which I have already mentioned, encompassing business, youth, women, and our own cultural focal point network.

     

    Distinguished participants,

     

    With the active participation and wisdom from all of you, we have high expectations that the Symposium will be a great step forward in creating an environment that is conducive to further developing and enhancing the level of inter-cultural and inter-faith understanding and mutual respect within the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. It is in the interest of all people in the region that through a process of constructive dialogue and sincere cooperation, we will be able to build ours into the region of peace, stability and high economic growth, which are essential to achieve the goals of development and prosperity in our region.

     

    Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to warmly welcome you all to this Symposium and wish the Symposium great success.

     

    I thank you.