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Christians urged to join multi-faith bid to tackle radical Islam

A delegation from Indonesia is in the UK this week trying to raise awareness of the issue.

Indonesia has the biggest Muslim population in the world, with its followers living harmoniously with those of many other faiths.

The country's constitution does not recognise one faith and Indonesia does not have a prescribed state religion. Instead, it names a number of faiths, including Christianity and Buddhism.

But, there are growing fears radical elements, inspried by events in the Middle East, are infilitrating schools and universities, targetting disaffected students.

Officials believe education officials invite preachers in to give sermons but don't check what is being said at these gatherings.

Alwi Shihab is the President's special envoy to the Middle East and part of the visiting delegation.

He told Premier:

"Most Indonesian masses today are religiously illiterate. They don't know what Islam is all about, so when someone (radical preachers) tries to educate them they tend to follow.

"Sometimes the youth are frustrated because their dream cannot be fulfilled so when they come along and tell them the Islam they are practising today is not the real Islam, they tend to follow.

Azyumardi Azra is a special advisor to the Vice-President of Indonesia and was awarded the CBE by Queen Elizabeth II for his role in inter-faith understanding.

Mr Azra believes that one cause of friction could be that many Muslims have not integrated while cultural differences may also play a part.

He says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ongoing conflict in Syria put the UK and the United States of America in the firing line. Yemen could also be a trigger for anti-western feeling.

He told Premier the only way to stop the circle of violence is for religious and political leaders at all levels to work together to try and find a solution:

"If you want to fight for the cause of Muslims, you have to do it in a peaceful way. If you resort to violence it will not create any benefit and may create a stronger Islamphobia."

The visit is a joint project by Leimena Institute (Indonesia) and Fieldstead and Company (USA) working work with Christian, Muslim, and other leaders and at the grassroots to defeat the extremist religious ideology by consolidating the middle path Islam in Indonesia that is also under threat and promoting it to the outside world.

Organisers say it is in the national interest of the US and European countries to explore the possibility of this global partnership initiative.

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