In 2012, during Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal's tenure as Indonesian Ambassador to the United States, he assembled a group of Indonesian and American religious leaders to embark on an "Abrahamic peace mission" -- from Jakarta, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, and Washington DC. This joint delegation consisted of Islamic clerics, Christian priests and Jewish rabbis (there were no Jewish Rabbis in the Indonesian delegation).
Within the peace delegation there was an influential Indonesian Islamic cleric from a conservative part of West Java who had thousands of followers. During the early part of the journey, he actively avoided the Jewish Rabbi, staying away. However, by the time the group arrived in Washington DC, we observed that the Indonesian Islamic cleric began to be friends with the Rabbi. They spent some time in Washington DC, and before the Islamic cleric departed to return home, Amb. Djalal asked what he thought of the rabbi. The imam replied, "He is all right. I hope to see him again in the future. I have his email and will stay in touch with him." The cleric went back to his community in West Java. Reportedly, he has dropped his anti-Semitic rhetoric from his sermons.
The 2012 Abrahamic journey contained an important revelation: Sending people of different faiths together in a journey for an extended time creates greater impact than sending them to a one-day inter-faith seminar to exchange speeches. The journey facilitated interactions which somehow changed age-old stereotypes. It showed that ignorance can be changed to connection, to familiarity, and to friendship.
The above story forms the basis of the idea to create 1,000 Abrahamic Circles. A Circle implies not just a one-off meeting, but a deep connection forged by meaningful fraternal experience.
What happens when we begin with 10 Circles, and then scale up to 50, to 100, to 500 and 1000 Circles? How can we find a way to engage more religious leaders of Abrahamic faiths in a systematic and long-term fashion? How do we scale-up, replicate it around the world, and make it a global project?
The 1000 Abrahamic Circles Project was selected as one of the very few peace ideas (out of a thousand from around the world) to be showcased in the prestigious Paris Peace Forum that was held in Paris from 11th November to 13th November 2018. The 1000 Abrahamic Circles also won the Intercultural Achievement Award 2020 from the Austrian government for Innovation.
The 1000 Abrahamic Circles Project has also received an endorsement from; the Indonesian Vice President K.H Ma’ruf Amin, Dr. H. Muhammad Jusuf Kalla, and Indonesian Foreign Minister H.E. Retno Marsudi have written letters expressing strong support and endorsement for the 1000 Abrahamic Circles Project, which are enclosed along with the Narrative Report and Media Report of the project. Significantly, this project has also been endorsed by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Indonesia.
“The Indonesian Government has always believed that interfaith cooperation is critical to world peace and as such, the Indonesian Government has always actively promoted interfaith exchanges and cooperation. The 1000 Abrahamic Circles program offers a fresh and innovative peace-building idea to turn ignorance and prejudice to engagement and mutual respect through a real-life interactive process on the ground involving grassroots leaders of the religious faith of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. I find it particularly useful that this program intends to engage countries of concern both in the developed and developing world. I believe that the successful implementation of 1000 Abrahamic Circles would have a significant impact on a volatile world which is in dire need of greater harmony and tolerance.”
Drs. H. Muhammad Jusuf Kalla
Former Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia
Jakarta, 7 November 2018
“Indonesia is a firm believer that interfaith cooperation is the key to world peace and as such, Indonesia has always actively promoted interfaith exchanges and cooperation. The 1000 Abrahamic Circles programs offer a fresh and innovative peace-building idea to turn ignorance and prejudice to engagement and mutual respect through a real-life interactive process on the ground involving grassroots leaders of the religious faiths of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Indonesia finds it particularly useful that this program intends to engage countries of concern both in the developing and developed world.”
Retno L.P Marsudi
The Republic of Indonesia, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Singapore, 11 November 2018
“Another interesting point from 1000 Abrahamic Circles Project is, instead of focusing only on activities related to interfaith dialogue, this program also fosters friendships between leaders and adherents of Abrahamic religions through activities that promote kinship like eating together, traveling, exercising and attending community events and many more. These things make us realize that every human being has the same desire for pleasure and worldliness. As long as no one’s bothered and collective benefits could be gained, why don’t we do things together?”
Imam Abdullah Syukri
Abraham’s Smile Circle
“In a high level of interfaith we have a lot of people writing policy and saying we should do this, we should do that and often it doesn’t filter down. I’ve already had the chance to look at the children in my congregation and say, if anyone at school tells you that Islam is terrorism you can say ‘no’, that it is about peace and love.”
Rev. Rayhand Prasad
“I learned that interfaith dialogue involves not just finding answers in commonality, but asking good questions as well. It necessitates listening deeply with not just the mind, but the heart. It also meant trying to withhold judgment about differences, searching for similarities, and looking out for one another.”
Rabbi Elliot Baskin
The 1000 Abrahamic Circles Project was selected as one of the very few peace ideas (out of a thousand from around the world) to be showcased in the prestigious Paris Peace Forum that was held in Paris from 11th November to 13th November 2018.
The 1000 Abrahamic Circles also won the Intercultural Achievement Award 2020 from the Austrian government for Innovation.