Indonesian journalist becomes an ‘Ambassador for Peace,’ and teaches others the path to religious freedom

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Indonesian journalist becomes an ‘Ambassador for Peace,’ and teaches others the path to religious freedom
But he recently expressed sadness at losing Ameal Haddad, who had become his ‘adopted father’ and was a co-founder of the group

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (ANS) -- Ismail Alatas is a top Indonesian journalist and also the editor of the country’s Arabic newspaper, but he has a driving passion – to be an “Ambassador for Peace” and teach others the path to religious freedom.

Ismail Alatas with a photo of 
his friend, Ameal Haddad

He recently helped to organize a three-day gathering in Jakarta convened by Ambassadors for Peace, a Southern California-based organization that promotes religious tolerance between different faiths, and is now helping people of different religious to learn to not only tolerate each other’s views, but learn to understand each other.

Alatas chaired the conference led by Dr. Garry T. Ansdell, co-founder of Ambassadors for Peace (www.am4peace.com), and Javier Aguayo, a board member and California businessman. The pair, who have widely traveled into many countries, shared with the assembled group of mainly Muslims that their aim is to “foster religious tolerance, the right to faith, freedom of speech, and freedom from reprisal or persecution.”

At the end of the gathering, one Sunday, September 28, 2014, these leaders from one of the world’s largest and most diverse countries – Indonesia – agreed to work together for “religious peace.”

2) Ismail speaking at the conference
 as Dr. Garry T. Ansdell looks on

The delegation from the religious freedom organization, was led by co-founder, Dr. Garry Ansdell, senior pastor of Hosanna Christian Fellowship in Bellflower, California, who already has shared the AM4Peace distinctive message in many countries such as Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Syria, and Morocco.

But for Ismail, even though the gathering was a great success, it was also a sad time for him as co-founder, Ameal Haddad, a Middle-East born Christian, died just before the event was due to take place, and for Alatas, Haddad had become a second father to him.

The journalist told me that he first learned of Ambassadors for Peace (www.am4peace.com), through Mohammad H. Dawodieh, the then Jordanian Ambassador to Indonesia, who had found out about the group while in Southern California, and then introduced him to Pastor Ameal.

“From the first moment I met Mr. Ameal, he began to mean everything to me,” he said. “I had lost my own father many years ago and he suddenly became my new adopted father. He never ask me to follow him, but I felt something pull me to follow this guy. He even brought me an Arabic Bible and told me to not just open by ears to what it said, but also my heart.

“The final time I heard from him before he passed away, was maybe twelve hours beforehand. He called me by phone and he ask me he ask me to still continue work very hard for Ambassadors for Peace. When I asked him why he had put it that way, he said, ‘please don’t ask me, just say yes.’

“I know that you want to hear that I don’t have good health, but please promise me that you will be strong in Ambassadors for Peace. Then in the night before he passed away, he sent email for me and said he would love to hear back from me. That’s why I had such shock when I got the news that he just passed away.”

Some of the delegates

Pastor Ameal had become a regular to Indonesia from his Southern California home, and Ismail would help set up meetings for him to talk about the vision of Ambassadors for Peace, and I had joined him, with Pastor Garry and Javier on a previous trip some three years previously.

He said that as he got more involved with the group, he felt totally drawn to the message of Ambassadors for Peace.

“They are working to bring a religious rights resolution to all religions, and not just to one, like some others,” Ismail said. “Ambassadors for Peace for all the people in all the world. That’s why I feel I love them and really I ask them to continue and tell them, ‘Please don’t stop because if you do, this is the last hope for the earth.”

Ambassadors for Peace was created shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, when Ansdell and Haddad, both from Bellflower, California, began responding to Muslim and other leaders who, like them, thought there was a desperate need to codify and discuss in “open dialogue, the differences and similarities of their faith and give dignity and respect to each other.”

Javier Aguayo at the conference

Since that time, they have been leading the way internationally for many key members of different religious beliefs to come into agreement for a Religious Rights Resolution. The document’s main theme is to “foster religious tolerance, the right to faith, freedom of speech, and freedom from reprisal or persecution, and open dialogue.”

Ambassadors for Peace has now provided its own “Bill of Rights.” Lives are lost each day to the fanaticism of religion, and every generation has seen it and no religion can look at its history and be without blame. It is time for the moorings of religion to be acknowledged globally. They should not be politicized nor ignored.

Every mainline religious leader of all faiths speak of the peace that their people want. The “Religious Freedom Resolution” gives individuals and leaders the opportunity to come together, not as one religion, but for the freedom of all religions.

To find out more, the US site is can be found at www.am4peace.com, and Indonesian website is at www.am4peace-indonesia.com.

Indonesia is the fourth largest country on earth (behind just China, India, and the US). Far from being small, Indonesia is in fact a vast archipelago that comprises over 17,000 Islands, which go to form a land mass equating to 1,919,440 square kilometers (735,355 square miles). This means that Indonesia is the 19th largest country in terms of land mass and it has a high population density, too. As the 4th most populous country on earth, Indonesia's 2014 population is estimated at 253,899,536, an increase from 2013’s estimate of 250,585,668.

Note: I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.


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Dan Wooding, 73, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 50 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California and which is also carried throughout the United States and around the world. He is the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is a novel about the life of Jesus through the eyes of his mother called "Mary: My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary". (Click to order)

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