Shaykh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, who is co-leading R20, a new religious forum to influence the G20 group of nations, says that religion and faith must be part of the solution to global political crises, including climate change.
He was speaking at the end of the forum’s inaugural meeting in Bali, which attracted more than 300 religious leaders from around the world.
Dr al-Issa is a Saudi Arabian politician and secretary-general of the Muslim World League, funded by the Saudi government and widely regarded as moderate, challenging extremism and promoting peace, dialogue and respect.
In an interview with the Religion Media Centre, he said the power of religious diplomacy was central to fixing many problems in the world, such as conflict resolution or addressing the climate crisis.
As leaders gather in Sharm El Sheikh for the UN climate change summit Cop27, he said there was “a missing piece of the puzzle” in climate efforts globally.
It was necessary to create an “authentic culture of ecological respect and preservation at the grassroots level across the globe”. The world needed a climate preservation culture connected to the moral compass of people around the world, to religious values.
With many of the world’s conflicts connected to religious identity, he said, conflict resolution and peace building must involve society’s moral and faith leadership.
One of the organisations represented at the R20 was Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist organisation from India. Dr al-Issa said that because the R20 was an engagement group of the G20, India as the next host nation had the prerogative to select its own delegates. But he added that it was better to communicate than create a void where misunderstandings accumulated.
He believed world leaders were beginning to wake up to the realisation that religion mattered and said the fact that there was a G20 religious forum was evidence of this.
The R20, which was an initiative of the Indonesian government taken forward by the Nahdlatul Ulama organisation in collaboration with the Muslim World League, took place in a five-star hotel in Bali on 2 and 3 November.
A final communiqué called for a global alliance to build bridges between nations, stop hatred, promote respect and foster a harmonious world order.
It said the wisdom of spiritual ecology in world religions should be harnessed to ensure respect and preservation of the environment. And it called on all world leaders “to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems”.
In previous years, the IF20 (Interfaith20), had met at about the time of the G20, gathering world religious leaders while researching and presenting papers which shadowed G20 deliberations.
This year because of the R20, it shifted its meeting to December but has pledged to continue its work and resume meetings around the G20 in the future. The R20, meanwhile, says it launched under Indonesia’s presidency and looks forward to India’s presidency of the G20 in 2023.
The full interview with Dr al-Issa — a written Q&A rather than recorded sound — is here