A Context of Brotherhood

David M. Kennedy

David M. Kennedy, “A Context of Brotherhood,” in Mormons and Muslims: Spiritual Foundations and Modern Manifestations, ed. Spencer J. Palmer (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University 2002), 63–66.

David M. Kennedy received a BA degree from Weber State College and MA and LLB degrees from George Washington University and also graduated from the Stonier Graduate School of Baking, Rutgers University. He was president of Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago, 1966–1969, then served as United States secretary of the treasury, 1969–1971, followed by service as United States ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe and United States ambassador at large, 1971–1973. At the time of the symposium, Ambassador Kennedy was a special representative of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


It is a great pleasure for me to be at this symposium, an effective means in bringing understanding to all of us in an area where understanding is too often lacking. I am honored to introduce our distinguished visitor for the keynote address, Mr. Haji Anton Timur Djaelani, who will be reading the speech of Mr. Haji Alamsjah Ratu Perwiranegara, Indonesia’s Minister of Religion. I wish to do so in the context of brotherhood and understanding.

I have been in most areas of the world, and in many of the countries of the world. I have seen people from all over the world in many walks of life with various views and different cultural backgrounds. It impressed me early that all of us are seeking a common end—an increase in happiness and a better way of life. I have found that even the leaders of nations are interested in the same things that we’re interested in—home, family, our children and grandchildren, and in economic and social progress that will make life better for all of us.

Despite our common interests, however, there are different views about how to seek these ends. In some way, we must come to an understanding so that our means will be as peaceful as our ends are desirable. I’ve been impressed over the years with the lack of understanding in our country—the United States of America—of the Islamic world. It is time indeed for gatherings such as these here. Our debt to Dr. Palmer is great. My personal debt is equally profound. I met Dr. Palmer years ago for the first time in Korea. I found him very much interested in the people of Korea, knowledgeable about their culture, their history-even their folk music. He gave me records of Korean music that have been an important part of my understanding of those fine people and their national spirit.

At the same time, we talked about other areas. I found that Dr. Palmer was interested in all of Asia—in the various religions, cultures, history, and background of the peoples. He had a great interest in Buddhism and Islam. Since I have been serving as ambassador at large for the Church, I have had many discussions with Dr. Palmer; and he has been most helpful in providing information and counsel. He has also been kind enough to introduce me and others to scholars who can give in-depth views of various nations and their characteristics.

Another participant in this symposium, Orin Parker, is a friend whom I met for the first time in Lebanon. We found we had a common friend in Lebanon—Dr. Adam Malik—who welcomed us to his beautiful home, which I hope has not been destroyed. He took us to his political and religious libraries on the third and fourth floors. I was very much impressed—the room was perhaps twenty feet by twenty feet, covered on four sides with bookshelves full of books. When I asked, “Do you have anything on Mormonism?” he took me to a bookcase where he had two shelves at least six feet long filled with books on Mormonism. I asked him why he was so interested in Mormonism. He had been to Utah, knew a great deal about the Mormon Church, and had several Mormon friends. But more than that, he was very much interested in all religions and their influence on people, economics, and political conditions.

I have also visited Indonesia many times, the first time, I think, as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. President Kemusu Suharto, after the revolution, had accepted the national and international debts of the Sukarno administration. It was a very large debt owed to the United States, to Europe, and to Russia. We had Dr. Herman Apps of the Duchi Bank make a very careful study to see what terms and conditions would be necessary for Indonesia to meet its obligations. I was amazed at the tremendous wealth of Indonesia’s natural resources—their oil, their timber, their minerals, and other resources. We rescheduled the debt, giving a longer period for payment, reducing the rate of interest, and so on. We had talks with the other creditor nations in a conference in Paris to secure Soviet agreement that United States aid to Indonesia would not be liable in payment on the debt due Russia and also secured the approval of the Congress of the United States. Mrs. Kennedy and I then flew to the island of Bali for a few days’ rest in that beautiful place, then went to Jakarta, where we were received in a most friendly way by President Suharto, by Adam Malik, then foreign minister and now vice president, and by my counterpart, Ali Wardana, minister of finance of Indonesia. We signed the treaty rescheduling the Indonesia debt.

I have also gone to Indonesia for the Mormon Church on several occasions, and in so doing I have had the privilege of meeting Minister Alamsjah, minister of religion of Indonesia. He kindly invited us to his home for dinner, where we had a very helpful discussion. On one of these journeys I carried a copy of a letter that President Jeffrey Holland had written inviting Minister Alamsjah to this conference. Dr. Palmer and I felt that a representative from Indonesia would be an ideal person to give the keynote address. It is a country of some 147 million people, largely of the Muslim faith, where people are able to pursue their religious desires in open freedom. There is no discrimination in their country because Indonesia has no state religion, although Islam is very important there.

Minister Alamsjah was tremendously interested to learn that a university here in the United States wanted a discussion of this kind to exchange views and to publish a report. He considers this conference very important, but the pressure of current political activities made it impossible for him to attend. The university and the symposium committee were willing and pleased to have Mr. H. Anton Timur Djaelani represent the minister.

Mr. Djaelani, Director General for Islamic Institutional Development in Indonesia’s Department of Religion, has an impressive background in Islam’s history, teachings, and principles. In our meetings with our distinguished visitor we have found him not only well informed but a delightful person to know, a human being that you could learn to love. May we give his presentation not only our gracious attention but our open hearts.