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12/14/04 - RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE MEETING - 2004-12-14

Religious and political leaders from southeast Asia and Australia met in Indonesia to promote tolerance as a means to reduce the threat of terrorism. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged leaders and followers from all religions to work together against terrorism:

"Terrorism today must be regarded as the enemy of all religions. In the end, the forces of light, reason, and hope must overpower the forces of darkness, despair, and violence."

Indonesia, the host country, is home to the largest Muslim population in the world. While the overwhelming majority are moderates, there continues to be a small but violent extremist movement.

That movement includes the terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah. It has links to al-Qaida and cells in much of southeast Asia. The stated goal of Jemaah Islamiyah is to create an Islamic state comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the southern Philippines, and southern Thailand. Jemaah Islamiyah was responsible for the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, which killed more than two-hundred people from twenty-seven nations. More recently, this terrorist group has been widely accused of the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2003 and the bombing outside Australia's Jakarta embassy in September of this year.

Jemaah Islamiyah's operations leader, Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, was captured by Thai authorities in Thailand in 2003. But even without Hambali, Jemaah Islamiyah continues to pose a threat to governments and people in southeast Asia.

It is up to religious and community leaders of all faiths to promote vigorously the principles of religious tolerance, acceptance, and understanding.