The world’s largest Muslim organization, Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama (est. 1926), founded the G20 Religion Forum (R20) in March of 2022 in conjunction with the Indonesian Presidency of the G20.

Nahdlatul Ulama established the R20 to provide a global platform through which significant religious leaders of every faith and nation may unite to express their concerns and give voice to shared civilizational values.

The R20 constitutes a natural outcome of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) efforts, over the past decade, to “prevent the political weaponization of identity; curtail the spread of communal hatred; promote solidarity and respect among the diverse peoples, cultures and nations of the world; and foster the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being.”

In 2016, Nahdlatul Ulama convened the International Summit of Moderate Islamic Leaders (ISOMIL) in Jakarta, Indonesia, which issued the ISOMIL Nahdlatul Ulama Declaration.  The final two points of this declaration read:

  1. The Nahdlatul Ulama calls upon people of goodwill of every faith and nation to join in building a global consensus not to politicize Islam, and to marginalize those who would exploit Islam in such a way as to harm others.
  2. The Nahdlatul Ulama will strive to consolidate the global ahlusunnah wal jamaah (Sunni Muslim) community, in order to bring about a world in which Islam, and Muslims, are truly beneficent and contribute to the well-being of all humanity.

In 2017, the 7-million-member NU young adults movement promulgated the Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam. This 21-page document includes a strategic road map that outlines the basic elements of a coordinated, long-term effort to address a rapidly metastasizing crisis within the Islamic world, as reflected in the violence committed by terrorist groups such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba, and civil wars in Yemen, Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Point 3 of this strategic road map calls for “New theological discourse (ijtihad) to recontextualize Islamic teachings for the modern era.” Point 5 of the road map calls for developing “Grassroots movement(s) to build societal consensus and the political will necessary to resolve the crisis.”

The Humanitarian Islam movement emerged from Java’s 15th/16th century Wali Songo (“Nine Saints”) movement, whose wisdom, respect for pre-existing cultures, and profoundly spiritual modes of da‘wah (proselytism) precipitated the emergence of a great Islamic civilization in Nusantara (the Malay Archipelago), rooted in the principle of rahmah (universal love and compassion) and other noble values of religion.

In 2018, the Second Global Unity Forum, hosted by Gerakan Pemuda Ansor, adopted the Nusantara Manifesto, which extended its analysis of human conflict to incorporate the role of other religions and secular ideologies in fostering such conflict.

In 2019, at a gathering of over 20,000 Islamic scholars, Nahdlatul Ulama ruled that the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudential) category of infidel (kafir) has no legal relevance in a modern nation state.

In 2021, the World Evangelical Alliance, which represents 600 million Protestants in 143 countries, joined NU and the Imam W. Deen Mohammed Community to sign The Nation’s Mosque Statement in Washington, DC.

These strategic efforts laid the foundation for Nahdlatul Ulama to leverage Indonesia’s presidency of the G20 to found the G20 Religion Forum (R20) and host the first annual R20 Summit, which was held on 2 – 3 November 2022 on the island of Bali.

On 20 May 2022, the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board appointed the Center for Shared Civilizational Values as the Permanent Secretariat of the R20.

by Joe Cochrane

“JAKARTA, Indonesia — The scene is horrifyingly familiar. Islamic State soldiers march a line of prisoners to a riverbank, shoot them one by one and dump their bodies over a blood-soaked dock into the water.

“But instead of the celebratory music and words of praise expected in a jihadi video, the soundtrack features the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid, singing a Javanese mystical poem: ‘Many who memorize the Quran and Hadith love to condemn others as infidels while ignoring their own infidelity to God, their hearts and minds still mired in filth.’

“That powerful scene is one of many in a 90-minute film that amounts to a relentless, religious repudiation of the Islamic State and the opening salvo in a global campaign by the world’s largest Muslim group to challenge its ideology head-on. . .” Read the full article (PDF).

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“Cultures and religions that appear to be widely divergent are in fact like colors emerging from a prism, derived from a single source of light.”

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