It is fair to say that each historical phase, every new historical epoch enriches humanity with new social and spiritual experience. The example of Kazakhstan, which is rightfully seen as a respected international centre for dialogue between all world and traditional religions today, proves that.
On June 10-11, Astana will host the fifth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, with 112 delegations from 44 countries expected to attend.
The uniqueness of the upcoming interreligious summit lies in its key theme – “The Dialogue of Religious Leaders and Politicians in the Name of Peace and Development.” The matter is that the interactive platform of the congress will see for the first time the meeting of spiritual and political leaders sharing the same understanding of integrity of the world and a sense of community in the face of the globalisation of conflicts and their turning into a shakeup of the world order.
During the plenary and breakout sessions of the congress, the participants will have a detailed discussion of how effective the decisions of religious and political leaders are in ensuring a conflict-free future; how sufficient the international community’s tools are for countering the changing threats to peace; what the mechanisms are to prevent the countering of one religious worldview with another which certainly brings tensions. These and other questions will be debated at the congress, and the participants will seek answers to them.
As a whole, convening another inter-religious summit in Astana will be another significant contribution by Kazakhstan to the shaping of a new paradigm of international security, one that is based on maintaining efficient dialogue between religious leaders and politicians in search for a joint response to the threats and challenges of the globalising world.
All people of good will are expecting that from the very heart of Eurasia a clear message of strengthening peace and harmony for nations and states will come.
We believe that dialogue among spiritual hierarchs and politicians at a new stage of history can be described as the essence of a sort of anchor point, a crucially important element to ensure long-term security in a rapidly changing world.
The mandate of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions is to become an important link in the chain of international efforts to harmonise relations between civilisations, societies and people, rapprochement of cultures and religions on a platform of dialogue for the future of all humanity.
The congress aims to establish a direct dialogue between the leaders of major religions to ensure cooperation between representatives of different denominations to convert prevailing hostility and confrontation of the modern world to mutual understanding and peacefulness. Moreover, by virtue of the congress, the real conditions for opening new horizons of cooperation between different religious communities are being created.
For now a dozen years since the convening of the first congress in 2003, the inter-religious summits have demonstrated to the world a true vocation of all religions, common moral and ethical principles, and their enormous peacekeeping and humanitarian potential.
In this regard, it is important to emphasise that the initiative of convening a congress of spiritual hierarchy belongs to the President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who tirelessly stresses the need for intercivilisational and interfaith dialogue at the highest level.
As recognised by spiritual hierarchs, the Kazakh leader’s global initiative to create a unique inter-religious dialogue platform has opened a new path to the world community for a dialogue of civilisations.
In meetings with the leaders of world and traditional religions participating in the first congress, President Nazarbayev noted that the idea of a dialogue of civilisations is not something new and the international community has done a lot of work in this field and made significant contribution to the general progress of humanity by addressing the threats for peace and security, confidence-building at the national, regional and international levels, as well as development of common ethical standards.
The head of our state clearly outlined the thesis that despite the importance of the capacity, value and outcomes of the work that had previously been done, they couldn’t stop the ongoing conflicts in the world on religious matters and had not achieved the main goal, that is to halt the slide of the world community into a possible clash of civilisations.
President Nazarbayev drew the attention of religious leaders to the fact that the main omission of numerous international forums, various summits, seminars and other meetings was poor attention to interfaith dialogue, as it is one of the key aspects for a dialogue of civilisations.
“We believe that leaders of different confessions whose activities have a direct and diverse impact on the minds of people will be able to say the final word on the majority of current conflicts, which I must say have mostly religious and ethnic overtones,” the President of Kazakhstan said.
It is time for decisive action, fateful decisions and beginning of a long and complex process of interfaith dialogue.
The following interfaith summits in 2006, 2009 and 2012 proved that more than ever it is important to show the world the spiritual and moral foundations of the potential of all religions. It is necessary to prevent the appeals of the prevalence of immorality about the clash of civilisations and religions, expressed in contrasting beliefs, further politicisation of theological disputes and attempts to discredit one religion in the name of another one.
Our country is doing everything to make this important platform of leaders of world and traditional religions to become the core of cooperation of spiritual hierarchy and politicians to bring the priority of moral values and humanistic ideals back to the heart of the human community, to combat extremism and terrorism.
As a result of the global initiative of the Kazakh leader, Astana leads a cohort of subjects of international law today, which promotes dialogue between leaders of different world and traditional religions and denominations.
These achievements are inseparably associated with the history of the formation of statehood of our country when President Nazarbayev in the result of his hard, daily work managed to keep balance, peace and stability in our country.
Our leader proved capable of deeply understanding the problems and prospects of the transformation of society and defining the strategy of a strong and prosperous state based on the principle of [the Russian historian and philosopher] Lev Gumilev’s thesis that “ethnic diversity is the best form of human existence.” President Nazarbayev thus turned the principle of “ethnic and confessional diversity,” which was perhaps considered the major weakness of our country, into a strategic resource for the development of our young state.
As result of its success, Kazakhstan has avoided interethnic and inter-confessional conflicts. The effective result was achieved by virtue of a consistent and balanced policy pursued by our country in the religious sphere, modesty, deficiency of protection from the government in relation to any religion. In the meantime, inter-religious harmony and tolerance were always considered the core values of Kazakh society.
It is important to note these circumstances as Kazakhstan has historically formed as a multi-ethnic and multi-faith country with a rich religious landscape. Islam and Orthodox Christianity in our country are the religions that form the backbone of our culture. They determine the traditional life of the people and significantly contribute to spiritual development of society.
The government recognises the first day of Kurban Ait (Eid al-Adha) and Orthodox Christmas as official days off in Kazakhstan.
The established effective model of relations between the state and religious organisations in our country is based on democratic principles, respect for the rights and freedom of believers, on partnership and an effort for mutual understanding, tolerance and careful attention to the feelings of believers.
The preservation and protection of identity, culture, language and the spiritual traditions of citizens at the state level will create a unique Kazakh model of interethnic and interreligious harmony. Its progressive nature lies in the fact that the government constantly strives to ensure social peace in the country, which allows citizens to live with dignity, work and accumulate positive experiences in the field of human relations.
Today, looking back we can definitely say that the balanced implementation of the key provisions such as respect and support to the best traditions of world and traditional religions, the creation of conditions for the development and free use of the languages of all ethnic groups, the preservation of their cultures and traditions, have allowed the President of Kazakhstan to consolidate and unite citizens of our country into a single community.
Kazakhstan by its own example clearly has demonstrated that the dialogue and peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups and religions is possible. The best tool for this is a painstaking and accurate work of the country’s leadership to harmonise the various interests of all the people of Kazakhstan.
International politicians and experts commend our model of interethnic and inter-confessional accord and consider it a valuable case to study for implementation in the public life of other countries, including highly developed countries too.
We look forward to the start of the fifth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the paradigm of which was clearly noted by President Nazarbayev: “Religious leaders should encourage politicians to take the road of peace and harmony. The wealth of this world created by God must be present at all levels of the global political system.”
I am sure the Astana congress of spiritual hierarchs, a product of the global initiative by Kazakh President Nazarbayev will provide a new impetus, new breath to the benefit of all societies and nations of our planet.
The author is Minister of Culture and Sports of Kazakhstan.