Development, democracy, and religion are areas that are closely related and fundamental to human progress, said President Barack Obama in a recent speech at Jakarta's University of Indonesia.
America, said President Obama, has a stake in an Indonesia that is growing economically, producing greater prosperity for the Indonesian people. A rising middle class in Indonesia also means new markets for U.S. goods. And so the United States is investing more in Indonesia, and American exports have grown by nearly 50 percent compared with last year.
But development is not only about growth. It's about whether a good idea is allowed to grow into a business, and not be suffocated by red tape and corruption. Indonesia has managed its development in such a way that democracy has given the Indonesian people a voice and institutionalized checks and balances within government. It takes strong institutions, said President Obama, to check the concentration of power. It takes open markets that allow individuals to thrive and new ideas to flourish. It takes a free press and an independent justice system to root out abuse and excess and to insist on accountability. And it takes an open society and active citizens to reject inequality and injustice.
Development and democracy are about the notion that certain values are universal, including the freedom to practice one's religion without fear or restriction. Indonesia is a very diverse country where people worship God in many different ways. It is also home to the world's largest Muslim population. Since coming into office, President Obama has made it a priority to improve relations with Muslim communities around the world. But much remains to be accomplished.
America and Indonesia share a common resolve to root out terrorists, whose actions – allegedly in the name of religion -- have claimed so many innocent lives in both our countries. For its part, Indonesia has made impressive progress in dismantling the terrorists’ networks and bringing hundreds of these criminals to justice.
"We are two nations," said President Obama, "which have travelled different paths. Yet our nations show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag. And we are now building on that shared humanity ... through the entrepreneurs forging ties that can lead to prosperity; and through our embrace of fundamental democratic values and human aspirations."