The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions has been held in Kazakhstan for over 20 years. Once every three years, leaders of religions that are followed globally or as the tradition of particular nations gather and engage in dialogue between their faiths and civilizations. I am deeply grateful that we have had this opportunity.
Our religion, Shinto, is the traditional religion of Japan, and while it is practiced by more people than any other religion within Japan, it is scarcely known outside our borders. It is because of its distinctive character. Shinto has no sacred text, strict doctrines, and interest in evangelism. It is, rather, inextricably blended into the daily life and culture of the Japanese, and is one of the sources of the spirit, philosophy, and identity of the Japanese people. Further, Shinto sees sacred mysteries that transcend human understanding in fire and water, the sun and moon, the winds and the earth, and in all things. These mysteries are venerated as “kami,” and through ceremonies called “matsuri,” practitioners of Shinto have time and again calmed the threats of nature and prayed for abundant harvests and enduring peace. In this way, the far eastern island nation known as Japan has been bound together through a spirit of gratitude to the kami, and a religious practice that prizes harmony.
Shinto’s lack of concern with spreading the religion had a further consequence. Until recently, even if events were held around the world to gather representatives of various religions, Shinto did not take an active part. However, after we accepted the special invitation of the President of Kazakhstan to participate in this Congress, we found ourselves in full agreement with the aims of the meeting, and came to feel that it would be an honor if the spirit of Shinto could contribute in some way, however small, to these dialogues in search of truth. That we have come this far is a tribute to the dynamic leadership of the President of Kazakhstan and the understanding of the people of the nation, and I would like to offer our gratitude.
At last year’s 21st meeting of the Congress Secretariat, a development concept for the years 2023 to 2033 was adopted, building on the success of 20 years of dialogue between religions and civilisations. This concept is of the greatest importance for the future of the world; we welcome it from the bottom of our hearts, and are grateful for the leadership shown by Kazakhstan.
I am confident that the practical actions launched under this concept will advance the search for truth and sympathy that underlies all religions, and nurture tolerance. The desire for peace held by the representatives of religions across the world will, together with their prayers, spread to the rest of society, and another door to global peace will open.
The secretariat will meet again in Astana this autumn, and we hope to continue to support this globally important endeavor.
Finally, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for holding this high-level meeting. Further, let me thank the Head of the Secretariat of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, Maulen Ashimbayev, the Speaker of the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, together with all members of the secretariat staff for their hard work, and the people of Kazakhstan for their warm hospitality. I pray that all of you will be blessed with ever greater health and success.
The author is Shinsaku Mitsui, the head of the International Section, Jinja Honchō, Japan.