First Plenary Session – Said Aqil Siroj

Natalie Wright Romeri-Lewis
ICLRS Research Advisor

The first speaker at the First Plenary Session was Said Aqil Siroj, General Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, National Board of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, with an estimated 30 million members. Mr. Siroj began his presentation by introducing the origin of Islam. He noted Islam’s respect for Christian martyrs, as cited in the Koran. The delegations of early Christians who met with Mohamed, Islam’s final prophet, provide us with an example of peaceful, inter-faith dialogue. He also emphasized some of the many commonalities among Muslims, Christians, and Jews: a common origin, shared interest in the same geography, and a belief that Heavenly beings visited individuals on Earth. He concluded by stating that despite the different faiths in Indonesia, Indonesians enjoy the freedom of religion. In a predominantly Muslim country, for example, four of the country’s ministers (equivalent to the U.S. Secretary of a federal department) are not Muslim, but Christian and Hindu. Said Aqil Siroj is the General Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, National Board of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in Indonesia.