ASTANA – On the 7th of January, together with millions of Orthodox believers around the world, Kazakhstan’s Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas. Representatives of other religions along with the country’s leaders congratulated them on this revered holiday.
“Over the centuries, this holiday has been filling the hearts of people with great feelings of love and benevolence, it brings peace and kindness to our lives,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev said in a message to believers and the whole nation. “These eternal spiritual values unite members of all religions. They are the foundation of development and all achievements of Kazakhstan.”
According to President Nazarbayev, “the power of our society is resting on the grounds of peace and harmony; this is where different cultures and customs complement each other and create a unique, forward looking image of the country.”
“Kazakhstan is dynamically heading forward, strengthening social and economic development and maintaining the harmony between the vivid, distinct character of all ethnic groups and their unity. This holiday is associated with humanism and good deeds. It is important for our entire nation that has always valued the traditions of charity and mutual respect,” he said.
Historically, the Kazakh nation is known for its hospitality and traditions of tolerance. Modern day Kazakhstan is home to representatives of more than 100 nationalities who live in peace and harmony. A recent national poll showed that in the population above age 15, about 96% practice religion, whereas only 4% refused to specify or claim atheism. This is great change for a society that was under an atheist Communist government for 70 years during the 20th Century. The poll further showed that 67% of the population practices Islam, 29% practices Christianity of various denominations, 0.1% follows Buddhism, while 0.04% follows the teachings of Judaism.
Acknowledging the important role of religion in unifying the nation and spreading the ideas of peace and tolerance, the main religious holidays of the two largest religions – Islam and the Russian Orthodox Church – are designated as days off.
Erzhan Hadzhi Malgazhiuly, the Supreme Mufti of Kazakhstan also expressed respect for the Christian holiday and highlighted the ability of Christianity to facilitate the strengthening of harmonious relations in the multi-ethnic country.
“The long-lived strong alliance between Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity has played an important role in growing patriotism and family values among the youth in Kazakhstan,” the Supreme Mufti said.