- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2007

4:02 p.m.

BALI, Indonesia — A Jewish Holocaust survivor made a plea for tolerance today at a conference in the world’s most populous Muslim nation that also brought together religious leaders and victims of attacks by Islamic extremists.

One of the goals of the meeting was to counter a December conference hosted by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that tried to cast doubt on the killing of an estimated 6 million Jews during World War II.

“I hope people will learn from the past,” said Sol Teichman, 79, who was a teenager living in Czechoslovakia when his city was occupied first by the Hungarian army and then the Germans. “We should try to improve life instead of destroying it.”

The daylong gathering on Bali island was attended by high-profile moderate Indonesian Muslim leaders, including former President Abdurraham Wahid, and Hindu spiritual head Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, as well as Buddhist teachers, a Jesuit priest and rabbis — a rarity in a country that does not recognize Israel or the Jewish faith.

Indonesia earlier this week refused to sign a U.N. Security Council agreement condemning Iran’s president for making statements that encouraged the destruction of Israel. That did not stop Mr. Wahid, who was president from 1999 to 2001, from offering his own objections to claims that the Holocaust was a myth.

“Although I’m a good friend of Ahmadinejad, I have to say that he is wrong,” he said. “I visited Auschwitz’s Museum of Holocaust and I saw many shoes of dead people. Because of this, I believe the Holocaust happened.”

His daughter, Yenny Wahid, who is a prominent supporter of liberal Islam, said it was up to Muslims “to bring religion back to its original intention … to underline the importance of finding shared values.”

Also participating in the conference were victims of a terrorist attack in Israel and of suicide bombings by Muslim militants on Bali in 2005. More than 220 people have died from two attacks in Bali.

“It has been difficult for me to excuse in my heart those who committed this act,” said Tumini, a Balinese woman who was severely burned when al Qaeda-linked militants targeted two nightclubs in 2002.

Bali is a mostly Hindu enclave in Indonesia, which has about 190 million Muslims, more than any other nation in the world. Its government is secular, and most people are moderate, although a vocal militant fringe has grown louder in recent years.

The conference was sponsored by the Libforall Foundation, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization that seeks to counter Muslim extremism in the Islamic world by supporting religious moderates, and the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance.

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