Explainer: R20 – Global religion at the G20

Image credit: RMC

What is the R20?

The R20 is shorthand for the G20 Religious Forum, a gathering of leaders from major world religions in the countries of the G20, mirroring their political discussions.  

It is the initiative of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country with an estimated 231 million adherents, which holds the presidency of the G20 until 30 November 2022.

The Forum is meeting for the first time in Bali, Indonesia, on 2 and 3 November 2022, two weeks before the G20. 300 people are attending. A film explaining the R20 is here

The R20 aims to help world leaders see that religion “is a dynamic source of solutions rather than problems” in the 21st century. It seeks to give a platform for every religious leader to express concerns and give voice to shared moral and spiritual values.

The G20 is an annual summit of developed and emerging economies, which discusses future economic growth and prosperity. It rotates the presidency and venue around each G20 country. It is meeting in Bali on 15 and 16 November 2022. More information on the G20 is here

The members of the G20 are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.  Spain is invited as a permanent guest. Other countries are invited to take part each year.

Who started the R20?

The R20 was started by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the world’s largest Muslim organisation, which is based in Indonesia.

The title means “the revival of Ulama ― Muslim scholars” and the organisation’s original purpose when founded in 1926, was to resist the spread of religion brought by invaders and to escape colonialism.

Today it is regarded as taking moderate positions and its chairman, Yahya Staqufa, was the prime mover in launching the R20. Publicity material says NU challenges Muslims to re-contextualise orthodox Islamic teaching, reconciling it with contemporary culture.

At a press conference to launch the two-day summit, Yahya Staquf said the R20 would be the beginning of a “global alliance, founded upon shared civilisational values”, building bridges between east and west, to encourage mutual understanding, peace and friendship. 

An early supporter is Shaykh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, based in Mecca, which is also regarded as moderate leaning. As the co-chair of the inaugural summit, he told the opening press conference that unless religious organisations were fully involved in global negotiations, there would never fully be peace. World conflicts had been attributed to clashes based on religion, leading people to say religion was the most serious problem. But he said Islam categorically rejected conflict and desired good values, justice and peace.

What are R20’s aims?

The R20 leaders say they aim to fill a gap in world leadership, which lacks spiritual or “civilisational” leadership: “The entire global narrative and agenda is currently controlled by political leadership, big corporations, some economic think tanks or some extremist and terrorist groups. We need to bring a balance. R20 is aimed at developing a global platform of cultural, religious and civilisational leadership that can pro-actively help countries in tackling some of the 21st-century challenges”. Introduction to the R20 on YouTube here

Key objectives

In a press release  it lists its key objectives as:

  • Preventing the weaponisation of identity
  • Curtailing the spread of communal hatred
  • Safeguarding humans from violence and suffering precipitated by conflict
  • Encouraging honest and realistic conversation within and between religious communities
  • Infusing geopolitical and economic power structures with moral and spiritual values

What happened to the other G20 religion organisation, the IF20 Interfaith G20?

The R20 is separate to the G20 Interfaith Forum (IF20), which has operated since 2014, producing papers for the G20 on issues such as financial measures for vulnerable countries, Covid-19 emergencies, children, climate change and refugees.  

The IF20 has a network of working groups considering these topics and produces policy briefs to help G20 summit leaders reach decisions.

Because of the R20, it is not meeting in Indonesia during the G20 conference. Instead, it will gather in United Arab Emirates on 12-13 December. In a statement it pledged to expand its efforts for future G20s in India (2023), Brazil (2024), South Africa (2025) “and at all G20 Summits to come”.


The R20 organisers have allowed a representative of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist organisation from India, to take part, saying it was the name put forward by the Indian government. In a statement, the NU pledged discussions with India to address abuses against minority religions.

The organisers have developed links with the global Catholic church and the Protestant World Evangelical Alliance and is said to have prevented the introduction of sharia  in Gambia.

The first speaker at its inaugural event was  Archbishop Henry Ndukuba, Anglican Primate of the Church of Nigeria, who refused to attend the Lambeth Conference in a dispute over same-sex relationships and is a member of a rival organisation to the Anglican communion, known as Gafcon. He spoke about persecution and acts of genocide against Christians and liberal Muslims in the north of Nigeria.


Join our Newsletter