IRLA Secretary-General Visits Indonesia

March 27, 2002 Silver Spring, MD ... While visiting Indonesia on March 6-12, 2002, Dr. John Graz, secretary-general for the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), spent time lecturing and meeting with religious leaders and believers. "The main factor contributing to religious conflict in Indonesia is political, although other factors such as religion, race and economics have played a part," says Graz.

In the world's largest archipelago, Indonesia's more than 228 million citizens are made up of 88 percent Muslims, 3 percent Roman Catholics, 5 percent Protestants, 2 percent Hindus, 1 percent Buddhist, and 1 percent other. Since its independence from the Netherlands in 1949, the largest challenge for Indonesia is the reinforcement of the democratic institutions. During this transitional period, many groups have had the opportunity to impose their own agenda, which could be ethnical, political or religious. In some parts of the country, such as Ambon Island, violence of extremist Muslims contributed to the radicalization of the Christians. Believers from both sides suffered severely.

"Christians in Indonesia, however, hope that their good relations with moderate Muslims will reinforce the general good wishes for peace. Even if Christian churches have to face more challenges to develop their future activities, they continue to hope. The majority of the citizens are opposed to the Shari'a law. For non-Muslims who believe they have a future in Indonesia, they know that forgiveness and reconciliation are the only ways to build a democratic country for all," Graz concluded.

Graz also visited several countries in Asia on his way to Manila in preparation for the World Congress on Religious Freedom that will take place June 10-13, 2002. On Thursday, March 22, an IRLA delegation met with Cardinal Sin inviting him to speak at the upcoming congress. Dr. Hiskia Missah, who was in attendance, stated that Cardinal Sin expressed interest in the work of the IRLA, and was happy that the Philippines was chosen for this important event.

Founded by the Adventist Church in 1893, the IRLA is a non-sectarian organization that promotes religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all people. For more information on IRLA, visitwww.irla.org.