IRLA-International Hosts Indonesian Visitors for Religious Freedom Briefing

L to R: Matthew Bediako, Ali Maschan Moesa, Bert Beach, Aribowo, Josi Katoppo.

May 3, 2001. Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. [IRLA News] Two visitors from Indonesia attended a religious freedom briefing at IRLA-International headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, as part of the International Visitor Project arranged by the US Department of State.

Mr Ali Maschan Moesa , chairman of the East Java Nahdlatul Ulama (Moslem organization), and Mr Aribowo, lecturer at the faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Airlangga University, were the guests of the IRLA on May 3.

Robert Nixon, IRLA vice-president, spoke on the status of religious minorities in the US, referring to the US Constitution and its religious freedom safeguards. He pointed to the local phone listings which contain fifteen pages of religious organizations as an illustration of religious pluralism and that there is no preferred religion in the US.

"The listing shows more than 1,400 religious groups just in the suburban Maryland area," he noted. "Government permits churches their own organization and structure without government interference. The lack of conflict results from the fact that all are equal and small religious groups are not suspicious that the government is against them."

Mr. Mosea commented on the separation of church and state as a factor in this situation.

Mr. Aribo expressed his appreciation for the welcome "on equal terms," and said that he was very interested in how the religious community in the US interacted. "We can learn much," he noted, "and we want to improve our skills and organization. The relationship between religion and state is very sensitive. In Indonesia this is a political issue. Now that the government is more democratic and open the problems facing us are not so much government and religion but socio-economic issues."

Bert Beach, IRLA vice-president, responded, commenting that "We appreciate the emphasis on reason in religion, and we look forward to working together so that we will have peace." [Jonathan Gallagher]