(Bangkok and Pattani, Thailand | September 19, 2012)

More than 200 religious leaders, representatives of interreligious councils and peace scholars from the Association of South Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states convened in Bangkok and Pattani, Thailand on 17-19 September 2012, to address the role of religion and interreligious cooperation in resolving conflicts and building peace in the ASEAN region.

The participants made a united mission to the conflict zone in southern Thailand to advance multi-religious cooperation to build peace. The Religions for Peace Interreligious Council of Thailand has been working to build closer relationships among various religious groups in the South of Thailand to help resolve the conflict. “Thai Buddhists and Muslims share deep moral principles, and these can provide a basis for working out a peaceful solution,” noted Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Deputy Secretary-General of Religions for Peace International

The conference was organized by the Religions for Peace Interreligious Council of Thailand in cooperation with the Muslim World League (MWL); Thai government’s Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC); Office of Shaikhul Islam; Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University; Assalam Institute; Yala Islamic University and Religions for Peace International.

The participants committed themselves to establishing and/or strengthening national interreligious mechanisms in respective countries and to developing a network of Inter-religious Councils in ASEAN to further strengthen interreligious actions to prevent conflicts, promote development, and advance peace in ASEAN countries and the region as a whole.

Her Excellency Prime Minister Mrs. Yinglak Shinawatra of Thailand welcomed the Religions for Peace and Muslim World League delegation at her official residence and stated in her statement to the conference that “through deeper cooperation among ASEAN religious leaders, a peaceful ASEAN community will become a reality.”

Prof. Dr. Din Syamusuddin, Moderator of Asian Conference of Religions for Peace, stressed that “our ASEAN region is faced with new, urgent and decisive threats to peace that cut across the boundaries of each particular religious community. Action that combines compassion, justice and forgiveness must be urgently taken by all of us. So it is that our multi-religious cooperation can become an alliance of great spiritual and moral strength to uphold the dignity of every person and the well-being of our common earth.”

The ASEAN Social and Cultural Community (ASCC), one of the pillars of the ASEAN Community, will be officially launched in the year 2015. This new platform will pave the way for a more dynamic people-to-people, including religious groups, exchange among ASEAN member states.

Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary-General of Religions for Peace International, stated that "cooperation between multi-religious bodies and ASEAN could yield great fruit in terms of conflict resolution and peacebuilding in the region." He also noted that “religious communities and governments have different identities, mandates and capacities. Cooperation between them should respect these differences.”

Formation of Asean interreligious body, Bangkok 

Delgates at the formation of the ASEAN Nations Interreligious Body, Thailand

Speakers included H.E. Prof. Dr. Abdullah Muhsin Al-Turky, Secretary-General, The Muslim World League; Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary-General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace; Somdej Phramaharajmangklajarn, Committee Sangha Council; H.E. Yongyut Wichaidis, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand; Prof. Dr. Din Syamsuddin, President, Muhamadiyyah, Religions for Peace International Co-President; Moderator, Asian Conference of Religions for Peace; His Holiness Ven. Tep Vong, Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia; Religions for Peace Dr. Ismail Lutfi Japakiya, Co-President, Religions for Peace Inter-religious Council of Thailand; Dr. Parichart Suwanbubbha, Secretary to the Religions for Peace Interreligious Council of Thailand; Phrarajwarajarn Co President Religions for Peace Inter-religious Council of Thailand; Dr. Gothom Arya, Senior Advisor to the Council; Dr. Lillian Sison, Secretary General, Religions for Peace Philippines; Chair, Asian Women of Faith Network; Dean, Graduate School, Pontifical University of Santo Tomas; Mr. U Myint Swe, President, Ratana Metta and Acting President of Religions for Peace Myanmar, Myanmar; and Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Deputy Secretary-General, Religions for Peace International.

Source: Religions for Peace

Photo Credit: Religions for Peace