Belgian Ambassador Stéphane De Loecker, left, and his spouse, Consolate De Loecker-Manirariha, right, pose with Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati during a King's Feast celebration in Jakarta on Thursday last week. (JG Photo/Telly Nathalia)

Belgium, Indonesia Seek to Promote Tolerance, Religious Freedom Amid Rising Extremism

BY :SARAH YUNIARNI

NOVEMBER 19, 2018

Jakarta. Stéphane De Loecker, Belgium's ambassador to Indonesia, has stressed the importance of tolerance and religious freedom amid a global rise in nationalism and extremism.

"There is a clear wish on both sides to work together in promoting international cooperation and tolerance in these times when we see growing tendencies of nationalism and extremism," De Loecker said during a King's Feast celebration in honor of the Belgian monarch, presented by the embassy in Jakarta on Thursday last week.

He said it is not an easy task for both nations, especially for Belgium, as a rising wave of nationalism and populism in Europe brings back memories of the dark times the continent experienced in the early 20th century.

"At the beginning of this week, on Nov. 11, we celebrated the end of World War I, which was fought mainly on Belgian soil by soldiers of many countries between 1914 and 1918, and left my country devastated," he said.

De Loecker said that ever since the war, Belgium has always contributed to peace, stability and cooperation among nations.

"Indonesia of course, has a very different history from Belgium, but has also learned from the past that peaceful resolution of conflict and international cooperation are essential," he added.

Together with the European Union, Belgium continues to defend the concept of an open and tolerant society, just like Indonesia does in defending Pancasila, the country's official ideology.

Aside from promoting tolerance in both countries, De Loecker said Indonesia has huge economic potential, which Belgian businesses want to tap.

Belgian companies also appreciate the Indonesian government's efforts to improve the business environment.

"They are confident that these efforts will continue, in particular with the signing of a broad CEPA [comprehensive economic partnership agreement] with the EU. That will be of huge benefit to both sides," the ambassador said.

Princess Astrid, the sister of Belgian King Philippe, led an economic mission to Jakarta and two other cities in the country in 2016 to strengthen bilateral economic ties between the two countries, especially on the development of smart cities and clean technology.

King Philippe also welcomed Vice President Jusuf Kalla in Brussels last year to officially open the Europalia Arts Festival, a four-month event showcasing Indonesian arts and culture.

Belgium and Indonesia will celebrate 70th years of bilateral relations anniversary next year.

The two countries will also serve as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council from January 2019.

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