Bahai News - Indonesian religious leaders appeal for calm Friday September 28, 1:34 PM

Indonesian religious leaders appeal for calm amid anti-US threats

JAKARTA, Sept 28 (AFP) - Indonesia's top religious leaders Friday condemned anti-US threats by extremist groups in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

The leaders, including the head of the largest Muslim organisation the Nahdlatul Ulama, said "illegal actions" could spark violence between different faiths in Indonesia.

There have been daily protests outside the US embassy against any American plans to attack Afghanistan, where Washington's chief terror suspect Osama bin Laden is believed hiding.

Several militant Muslim groups have threatened to drive out citizens of countries which support any US attack.

Last Sunday six militant groups checked five hotels in Solo city on Java island for Americans in a "sweep" aimed at forcibly evicting them from the country. No US citizens were found.

"We request all religious leaders and public figures not to use the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy to create a situation where it appears that there is confrontation between the particular religions," said a statement signed by 24 leaders of all main faiths.

Among them were Hasyim Muzadi, head of the Nahdlatul Ulama which has 40 million members; the Catholic archbishop of Jakarta, Julius Cardinal Darmaatmaja; Buddhist leader Bhikhu Sukhemothera; Baha'i leader Rudi Soraya, several Baptist and Protestant leaders, a Hindu leader and other prominent Muslim figures.

The leaders strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, which killed at least 6,000 people, and expressed support for the fight against terrorism.

But they urged the United States not to attack Afghanistan and not to target bin Laden without clear evidence.

"Our plea to other religious leaders is to handle correctly the extremist elements within their own religious movements so that dialogue between different religions and beliefs in this country can still be developed... confrontation, whether based on religion or otherwise, will only give rise to further disturbances and violence," the statement said.

The statement, released at a press conference, made no mention of any specific group.

But Muzadi told reporters it amounted to a condemnation of "sweeping" directed against Americans and others.

The US State Department on Wednesday told Americans to consider leaving the country and authorised non-essential diplomatic staff to leave. There are some 10,000 Americans in Indonesia.

An estimated 4,000 people have died in three years of sporadic fighting between Muslims and Christians in the Maluku islands.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country but the state ideology Pancasila prescribes religious tolerance.

©Copyright 2001, Agence France-Presse

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