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G20 convenes leading religious leaders at Religion 20 (R20) in Indonesia

For the first time ever, the G20 summit, which is taking place in Bali, Indonesia, is also convening the world’s major religious leaders, in a bid to find faithbased solutions to global crises. It included an address by His Holiness Pope Francis. This gathering has been named Religion 20 (R20). At the occasion, a forum was launched with the title “Building Bridges Between the East and the West: For a More Understanding and Peaceful World and More Coexisting and Harmonious Communities.”

Key agenda items being discussed include preventing the weaponization of religious identity, the role of world religions in climate and environmental preservation, curtailing the spread of communal hatred, addressing historical grievances and moving towards reconciliation, recontextualizing obsolete and problematic tenets of religion, countering religious radicalisation and countering the persecution of religious minorities.

In a comment piece, influential Zambian political and cultural affairs writer Lennox Kalifungwa notes:

“The main forces behind the R20’s Muslim delegations are the Muslim World League, the Islamic world’s largest non-governmental organization, which has partnered with Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, a massive clerical body with millions of members.

For each to reach across boundaries and borders in the cause of religious solidarity is significant, but more so because each has become increasingly dedicated to working with other faith communities across borders. For his part, the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Karim Al-Issa, a senior Saudi scholar, has argued that religion has a vital role to play in spaces like the G20—our modern-day problems often have spiritual and moral roots.

Substantively addressing them will require spiritual and moral leadership.

To this end, for example, Dr. Al-Issa announced during proceedings of the R20 that the Muslim World League will create a humanitarian fund to aid victims of war, with a focus on Ukraine. That dedication by a Muslim organization to a European, largely Christian country—with a Jewish President (and, of course, a historically significant Muslim minority)—is inspiring, especially seen alongside the R20’s incredible religious diversity.

Leaders from all faiths are present, up to the most senior levels. Indeed, His Holiness Pope Francis addressed the R20’s opening day.

What, one might ask, does this have to do with global free trade? From a historic angle, it’s telling that societies we associate today with economic openness, creative dynamism, and high levels of wealth and prosperity—such as Singapore, Dubai, or the Netherlands—were not just dedicated to economic freedom but religious freedom. (Indeed, the Dutch founded New York City; this is probably not a coincidence.)”

Kalifungwa highlights how the venue offers ways for the EU to make progress on the trade talks with the ASEAN trade bloc, which have been stalling:

“Locating the G20 in Indonesia this year is significant for Europe, too; for some time now, ASEAN—of which Indonesia is a member—has been exploring enhancing trade with the EU. The potential of this agreement would be huge, not only because of the size of the economies involved, but also because it would push back against a global trend towards protectionism and challenge China in its bid to line countries and blocs up behind it. Should the EU score a victory here, this will help push Washington to remain committed to smart free trade.”

A press release mentions that some of the high-profile speakers at R20 include:

· Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia (Indonesia)
· Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, Secretary-General of Muslim World League (Saudi
· Yahya Cholil Staquf, General Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (Indonesia)
· Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious
Dialogue (Vatican)
· Thomas Schirrmacher, Secretary General of the Protestant World Evangelical Alliance –
representing 600 million people in 143 countries (Germany)
· Archbishop Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba, Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Nigeria)
· Reverend Yoshinobu Miyake, Chair of the Board of International Shinto Studies Association
· Swami Govind Dev Giri (India)
· Rabbi Silvina Chemen, Professor at the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary (Argentina)
· Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayah, Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies (UAE)
· Jan Figel, Former EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU
· Matthew Hassan Kukah, Roman Catholic Bishop of Sokoto (Nigeria)
· Bashar Matti Warda, Archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church (Iraq)
· Archbishop Thomas Schirrmacher, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance and
the Director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom (Germany)
· Andrés Pastrana, Former President of Colombia and current Leader of the Centrist
Democrat International (Colombia)



  • Picture copyright: DonkeyHotey, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons