Bali Democracy Forum 2016

Bali Democracy Forum 2016

The Bali Democracy Forum 2016, attended by over 200 delegates from 96 countries and five international organizations, has called for a synergy of religions, tolerance and democracy during the two-day meeting that took place in Nusa Dua, Bali, some 20 days before the year 2016 ends.

The theme of this years forum is “Religion, Democracy and Tolerance,” which is highly relevant due to the current global situation witnessing an increase in narrow understanding of religions.

“Tolerance is needed because we are diverse,” President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said in his opening remarks on Dec 8, 2016.

Religion plays a crucial role in peoples lives in terms of their social, economic and political existence on a national, regional and global scale, he stated.

He said Islam came to Indonesia first in the 7th century with a peaceful spirit, which Indonesian Muslims have continued to foster until now.

“Beside Muslims, Indonesia is also home for Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Confucians,” he said, emphasizing the importance of tolerance and pluralism.

“There are more than 1,300 ethnic groups in Indonesia. Indonesia is the worlds largest Muslim nation. Muslims make up 85 percent of the population of 252 million,” Jokowi noted.

The Indonesian Government has been active in encouraging synergy between democracy, religion, and tolerance, to promote harmony among Indonesian citizens.

The head of state said it is crucial to make sure that democracy works well, supports stability and peace, and brings prosperity to the public.

“For that purpose, the government needs to actively encourage synergy among democracy, religions, and tolerance,” he stated.

“Indonesia has an advantage because it has a long history of plurality. Indonesia is home to plurality,” he added.

The President, however, expressed his concern about conflicts and problems still facing the world, such as the unresolved occupation of Palestinian land, radicalism and extremism, intolerance, and increasing xenophobia, as well as uncertain economic conditions.

“In such situations, we need a sense of optimism – optimism that results from discussions, optimism that could develop from the sharing of views and experiences, optimism that I hope can grow from our presence at this Bali Democracy Forum,” he stated.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, in her report during the opening ceremony, affirmed that BDF will continue to serve as a forum for discussion and sharing of experiences for the advancement of democracy in the Asia Pacific and other regions.

“Through this forum, we can learn about democracy without lecturing, but through experience-sharing,” she stated.

The Minister also emphasized that Indonesia has witnessed how Islam, democracy, and pluralism can work in harmony, even though there is much that needs to be done to enhance it.

“The Bali Democracy Forum is an important forum for maintaining and enhancing that harmony,” the Minister added.

The BDF, which is an annual Ministerial-level meeting convened in Indonesia, was attended by 219 delegates from 96 countries and 5 international organizations this year, which is the highest number of participants since BDF was first held in 2008.

The forum this year was very special because it presented keynote speakers, such as Kofi Annan (UN Secretary General 1997-2006), Surin Pitsuwan (Secretary General of ASEAN 2008-2012) and Ouided Bouchamaoui (Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2015 of Tunisia).

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