Address at the Indonesian signing of an agreement with Wellington's Victoria University.
Thank you for the invitation to speak at this distinguished university which has made such an important contribution to Indonesia's political, economic, and social development.
I am especially pleased to be here to witness the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between this university and Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.
This MOU paves the way to further co-operation between the two institutions, and forms part of the growing network of links which are developing between the people and institutions our two countries.
I am also pleased to advise that funding has been approved in New Zealand for an academic from this university to come to New Zealand on a teaching fellowship during the next year.
The fellowship will be for one semester, and is to be supported by Victoria University and by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade through a programme dedicated to building stronger links with the nations and peoples of Asia
Our Ministry's Seriously Asia programme focuses on building links with this region through initiatives in education, media, and culture, based around exchanges of people
In recent weeks Muslim Youth leaders from Indonesia came to New Zealand at our invitation to share perspectives and to experience New Zealand's multicultural, multifaith society.
My special thanks go to the Rector of this university, Dr Komarudin Hidayat for hosting my visit today. The Rector has a long standing personal involvement in interfaith and broader international dialogue. I know that this university also has a proud history of advancing inter-religious understanding, and that is something we in ``New Zealand are also keen to promote.
The New Zealand Government, like Indonesia's, places great importance on peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Economic and social development for all of us is dependent on that.
Tensions which arise from unfamiliarity and misunderstanding of each other's cultures, societies, and faiths are disruptive of development and cause insecurity.
Today I want to share my government's views on two important initiatives aimed at addressing what we regard as some of the biggest challenges of the modern era.
The first is the Alliance of Civilisations: a global initiative launched by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2005. It aims to overcome divisions between societies and cultures. It offers an alternative outlook to that bleak prophecy of clashes between civilizations, popularised by Samuel Huntingdon in the 1990s. In particular, it seeks to develop practical proposals to help reduce polarisation, particularly between Islam and the West.
One of the first actions of the AOC was to set up a diverse and highly-qualified High Level Group, charged with producing a report on the state of relations between civilisations.
My government felt that this was a very important initiative, and I know this view was shared in Indonesia.
This country is a well known and active promoter of inter-faith and inter-cultural understanding. Like New Zealand, Indonesia is a member of the Friends Group in New York which has been working to support the Alliance of Civilisations High Level Group.
The report of the Group, released last November, is in two parts. The first focuses mainly on the Middle East, while the second sets out recommendations for practical action by states, regional and international organisations, and civil society in four main fields of action : education, youth, media, and migration.
The Report describes our world as "alarmingly out of balance". It states that the need to "build bridges between societies, to promote dialogue and understanding, and to forge the political will to address the world's imbalances has never been greater."
Its recommendations identified practical ways of how to build those bridges, with an overarching goal of embracing diversity and fostering tolerance and understanding between societies and cultures.
The recommendations were thoughtful and relevant to all regions, including the Asia Pacific.
In this region, we live at the intersection of many of the world's great civilisations, faiths, and belief systems. We are a diverse region with extremes of wealth and poverty, and a wide range of political traditions, from one-party states to liberal democracies.
The New Zealand Government believed the Alliance of Civilisations report warranted close consideration by the countries of our region.
Thus we took the initiative to host a symposium in May, which I chaired, to discuss its findings. Experts from our region and beyond came to Auckland to discuss how we could take the recommendations in the High Level Group Report forward in our part of the world.
Indeed this was the first regional meeting anywhere in the world to discuss the report and we were fortunate to have strong input from Indonesia. Former Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, as one of three members of the High Level Group participating in the symposium, led our discussions on the regional response to the Report.
Indonesia had a very considerable presence at the symposium with eight experts attending, including your own Professor Azyumardi Azra, and they made very valuable and lively contributions.
At the symposium, participants roundly rejected the notion of the inevitability of a "Clash of Civilisations", and endorsed the relevance of the AOC initiative for the diverse communities of the Asia Pacific region.
They emphasised that many apparently "civilisation" or religious clashes were fundamentally political and driven by long-standing grievances and perceived injustices.
Many speakers noted that while poverty was often linked to the spread of fanaticism, there was not a direct causal relationship - and indeed extremists could be found across the social strata. There was a call for an "axis of equality" to address growing global imbalances. Attention focused on the need for dialogue and understanding, particularly between the West and the Muslim world.
It was also recognised that in our region, as in others, relations between civilisations and religions had often been based on "centuries of constructive exchanges, cross-fertilisation, and peaceful coexistence."
Participants also canvassed a wide range of ideas for possible regional action. I won't list them all but some ideas likely to be of particular interest to you included:
Ã‚Â· introducing into school curricula education about religious diversity (including in faith-based schools)
Ã‚Â· developing regional approaches to cross-cultural education and curriculum development
Ã‚Â· establishing more contacts between Islamic Studies Centres
Ã‚Â· setting up broader youth exchanges and networks
Ã‚Â· establishing something like a "Colombo Plan" for intercultural exchange in the region
Ã‚Â· developing greater media literacy on civilisation issues and better journalist training
Ã‚Â· getting better engagement of media owners themselves in intercultural debate
Ã‚Â· developing more humane migration systems, and
Ã‚Â· better integrating migrants into host societies.
My government will shortly be publishing the detailed proceedings of the symposium. We will be distributing them to governments in our region and to the United Nations. We plan to explore with partners in the region how we might best promote the AOC initiative and symposium outcomes in the region.
We also want to explore whether we should try to advance the AOC through existing regional mechanisms, such as ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, and APEC.
We will also be working with the AOC Secretariat, based at the UN, to promote the symposium outcomes alongside the wider AOC implementation plan launched by the Secretariat just a few weeks ago.
The implementation plan outlines the structure which will support the AOC's work and its programme of activities over the next two years. The proposals for regional action which emerged from the Auckland symposium usefully reinforce and complement the range of activities contemplated under the implementation plan.
We will look in particular to work with Indonesia, as a fellow Friend of the Alliance of Civilisations initiative, to promote both the symposium outcomes and the AOC implementation plan within our region.
New Zealand is also closely involved in another regional process which shares some common themes and goals with the AOC. The Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue is narrower in focus than the AOC, but the two processes have much to contribute to each other. Again, Indonesia is a close friend and partner in this effort.
Just as the AOC offers a global opportunity to build bridges between polarised societies and cultures, the Interfaith Dialogue provides a regional platform from which to build understanding between faith communities.
In recognising the need to build greater understanding and respect for each other's beliefs amongst people of different faiths, the Dialogue has the potential to defuse some of the potential causes of inter-community conflict which threaten peace and security in our region.
Indonesia has from the start played a major leadership role in the Interfaith Dialogue. Indeed, the first meeting of the Dialogue took place in Yogyakarta, in December 2004. The Philippines, which hosted the second Dialogue at Cebu in March 2006, and New Zealand are also co-sponsors of the process, along with Australia.
The Dialogue brings together faith and community leaders and some officials from 15 countries from the region - the ASEAN 10, plus Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand.
New Zealand had the privilege of hosting the third Dialogue meeting at Waitangi in May. The Waitangi agenda echoed the themes of the previous Dialogues: education, media, security and development. As with the AOC, the overall focus was on building bridges between the diverse religious communities in our region. To ensure a high degree of synergy between the two processes, we held briefing and workshop sessions on the AOC symposium.
There was robust discussion amongst the 170 delegates at Waitangi, which is evidence that the Dialogue is maturing. There is now a growing familiarity among the delegates, as many have attended the previous meetings. The participants, who represent both government and non-government viewpoints, are clearly comfortable in this setting, and are becoming more willing to confront difficult issues in an open manner.
I would like to commend Indonesia's 20-member, multi-faith delegation, which included Professor Azyumardi Azra, for its very active role at the Waitangi meeting, and particularly for its strong leadership of discussion on the security element of the Dialogue.
There is good reason for the four country co-sponsors of the Dialogue, and the delegates who participated, to be pleased with the outcome and the Waitangi Declaration, which build on the achievements of the previous Dialogues.
It includes practical proposals from which governments, faith communities, and civil society around the region can select to implement in their own countries. They fall under three main headings:
Ã‚Â· building bridges - where the recommendations focused on improving networks and connections between and within faith communities,
Ã‚Â· education - where recommendations proposed projects aimed at fostering tolerance and understanding of other religions in both the public and religious education systems, and
Ã‚Â· media - where recommendations aimed to improve the quality of coverage of faith related issues.
The acceptance at Waitangi of the importance of intra-faith discussion as part of the Dialogue process was another important outcome for New Zealand. This has the potential to build lasting networks, which could be a force for moderation and pluralism.
I believe that fundamentally all people yearn for the same things - peace, security and opportunity for our families and communities. Initiatives like the Interfaith Dialogue and the Alliance of Civilisations help us reach our common aspirations. It is important to build bridges based on respect and acknowledgement of the shared values and worth of our different faiths, cultures, and societies.
As the new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the General Assembly in May, we need to reassert the truth that diversity is a virtue, not a threat. New Zealand shares with Indonesia a commitment to promoting a society which celebrates, accommodates, and respects difference, and feels itself strengthened by its diverse cultures and faiths.
As New Zealand's originally bicultural nation has become highly multicultural, we accept ongoing effort is required to ensure that all ethnicities and faiths are valued and included in 21st century New Zealand.
Our delegation to the first Regional Interfaith Dialogue in Yogyakarta was inspired by discussion there around developing a broadly based statement on religious diversity.
Our delegates brought that idea home and pursued it through interfaith networks in New Zealand. They have now developed a statement on religious diversity for New Zealand which asserts:
Ã‚Â· that all faiths and beliefs should be treated equally before the law
Ã‚Â· the right to freedom of expression of faith and belief
Ã‚Â· the right to safety and security for those of all faiths and beliefs
Ã‚Â· the need for our public services and workplaces to accommodate diverse beliefs and practices; and
Ã‚Â· the importance of education in promoting understanding.
I believe this statement is a positive and practical outcome of New Zealand's involvement in regional interfaith processes, and I have commended it to our wider community for debate.
This week I will be visiting Prambanan temple in Yogyakarta, and Borobudur. How appropriate it is that both these magnificent Indonesian monuments to faith have a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
I understand that Prambanan and Borobudur - dedicated to two major different religions and located only 50 kilometres apart - owe their existence to a time of peaceful religious coexistence.
This reinforces my sense that the goals we are pursuing in the framework of today's Alliance of Civilisations and Regional Interfaith Dialogue initiatives are far from new, and that a study of our shared human heritage has the capacity to point us to a more humane and inclusive global community.