Jakarta. Indonesia and the United States will both benefit from religious pluralism and religious freedom, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David N. Saperstein said in a forum in Jakarta on Thursday (28/10).
With support from Indonesian president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and US president Barack Obama, the US-Indonesia Council on Religion and Pluralism was launched in August to promote religious pluralism and tolerance.
Saperstein said the council wants to bring together religious leaders from Indonesia and the United States to work together to improve religious understanding, mutual respect and collaboration.
Religion will play an important role to address challenges that both countries face as at least 80 percent of the world's population still claim religion as a big part of their identity.
Pluralism and religious tolerance are also recognized as basic human rights, Saperstein said. Almost every country in the world has signed the Universal Declaration of Civil and Political Rights that guarantees religious freedom for all.
As stated in article 18 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change one's religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
"Respect for freedom of religion is not only a good idea, but indispensable for the stability and well-being of a society," Saperstein said.
Each country has its own challenges to uphold human rights and religious freedom, but Saperstein is of the opinion that freedom of the press and freedom of speech will be paramount in countering those challenges.
"We will report, debate and do everything we can to resolve those challenges," the ambassador said.