The Conference on Interreligious Dialogue in South and Southeast Asia organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) in Bangkok, Thailand, from 18 to 20 December 2017 issued the Bangkok Joint Statement that calls for boosting local, national and regional collaboration on interfaith coexistence.
The Statement encouraged interfaith and faith-based organizations as well as religious and traditional leaders to promote greater inter and intra-religious dialogue for peaceful co-existence, harmony, and development in South and Southeast Asia. It also called for the development of inclusive training programs designed for the youth and women to promote skill building in inter and intra-faith dialogue, conflict resolution, and human rights and policy advocacy.
Participants urged governments to mainstream curriculum designs and educational practices that actively promote interfaith coexistence and multicultural understanding, and to strengthen policies and institutional frameworks to promote national and international reconciliation. They also called for enhancing the working partnership among interfaith and faith-based organizations, as well as religious and traditional leaders with policy makers in the region to promote harmony, peace and the dignity of all individuals, including respect for religious symbols and places of worship.
During the Conference, participants discussed how religious leaders in South and South-East Asia can promote better understanding and mutual respect in society. Over three days, they examined sources of the existing interreligious tensions with an emphasis on Buddhist-Muslim relations and exchanged views on the best practical ways to promote interfaith coexistence in light of the experiences learned from case studies of interfaith relations in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
The Conference, which was also organized through support from the Religions for Peace/Interreligious Council of Thailand, Mahidol University and Fatoni University aimed to emphasize the rich traditions of multicultural and multi-religious societies in Asia which have long history of living together and to develop strategies for religious leaders to work together to address contemporary challenges.
The OIC co-sponsorship of this Conference was in fulfillment of OIC Ministerial Resolutions. Officials from the Departments of Minorities and Communities, Dialogue & Outreach and Information of the OIC General Secretariat participated in the Conference.
The Conference included over seventy participants from Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Singapore, and Malaysia and comprised a unique mix of religious and civil society leaders, policy makers and government officials. Representatives from the Foreign Ministry of Thailand and diplomatic missions from Europe and North America, including, Austria, Switzerland and Canada also attended the Conference as observers.