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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Alwi Shihab speaks at Brigham Young University forum. He says tolerance isn't enough to ease tension between Islam and the West.

PROVO — Tolerance is not enough to ease the tension between Islam and the West, Indonesia's minister of foreign affairs says.

"To tolerate something is to learn to live with it, even when you think it is wrong and evil," Alwi Shihab said Tuesday at Brigham Young University.

Shihab, who received a standing ovation following his address, suggested instead that religious people work to promote multi-faith and pluralist societies, which requires interfaith dialogue to understand each other's religions, as well as dialogue on common values such as human rights.

Shihab, who delivered his address in English while quoting the Quran in Arabic, is a scholar who has taught Islamic studies at Harvard University.

In addition to working as Indonesia's minister of foreign affairs, he is an official in the country's National Awakening Party, a moderate Islamic party.

Shihab acknowledged that Muslims and Christians have been at odds for more than 14 centuries.

Some Muslims see the lax values of the West as a threat. And many Westerners see fundamentalist Islamic-inspired terrorism as a threat to their lives.

A remedy to the problem, Shihab said, is for religious leaders to discuss correct theology with members of their faiths to encourage moral behavior.

Three of the world's major religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, have similar roots and much in common, Shihab said.

They believe in one God, descend from Adam and Eve. They share the tradition of faith begun by Abraham and continued by Moses. They respect the Virgin Mary, admire her son Jesus and want to promote good and prevent evil, he said.

Shihab was introduced by President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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The two have been friends for years, and Packer recalled their telephone conversation in 2004, when Shihab arrived in Aceh province after the devastating tsunami. Shihab asked for 20,000 body bags. LDS Church leaders found them in China and shipped them to Indonesia.

That was the beginning of the church's humanitarian efforts in the wake of the tsunami, Elder Packer said.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expresses a special concern for the eternal welfare for all ... knowing we're brothers and sisters of the same eternal father," he said.

"You have to be proud to be members of this church," Shihab said to almost-full Marriott Center, adding that he feels he is part of the LDS community.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com