Astana will host 5th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in June 2015

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Astana will host 5th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in June 2015

By Umid Khatum

The 5th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions will be held in Astana Kazakhstan next year during June 10 to 11,

“In the name of peace and development” is the main theme of the dialogue between the religious leaders and politicians that will take place in Astana in next June. The balance in the world largely depends on dialogue and harmony between people. Therefore, dialogue among religions, cultures and spiritual unity are tool to fight back enmity and hostility on religious grounds.  The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions is the initiative of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, and Hinduism representatives, as well as major international organizations will be among the forum participants.

The first congress was held in Astana in September of 2003, and the participants were religious leaders and special guests from 13 countries from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

V Congress is very important event in reference to international anti-terrorism operation against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) because world is trying to deal with this barbaric outfit through weaponry strength only. The UK joins the coalition led by United States. The governments of Iran and Turkey are ready to attack ISIS that has been named “the second Al-Qaeda” but it is much more dangerous. Today, the group controls vast territories of Syria and Iraq but its influence can spread much further outside the Middle East into Asia minor, Central Asia and as far as South Asia because this group wants to install radical extremist Islam in “Khorasan”— The Khorasan territory marked by ISIS covers entire Central Asia and existing Asia. The experts warn that new soldiers, recently recruited by the Islamists, will go back to their home countries to continue terrorist activities there.

Each country has its own recipe for fighting the spreading threat- USA and its allies bomb ISIS’s positions in Iraq and Syria and Germany plans to denaturalise everyone who went fighting for the Islamists. International war experts insist on the necessity of blocking the group’s financing channels. Meanwhile the clergymen call out to the public to look deeper into the problem the solution to which lies in educating young people about Islam. In June of next year, clergy representatives from all over the world will gather in Kazakhstan for the fifth time. Every year there is a significant increase in the number of participants and the countries and regions they represent. The topic of 2015 meeting will be a dialogue of religious and political leaders in the name of peace and development with a special focus on fighting religious extremism.

It is no accident that Kazakhstan was chosen as a platform for an interfaith dialogue. This Central Asian republic has its own time-tested method for keeping peace and concord in the country. After the breakup of the former Soviet Union Kazakhstan managed to avoid inter ethnic conflicts and to keep the atmosphere of peace and friendship to this day.

Over years of independence, Kazakhstan has been creating its own uniquemodel of the society of interethnic and inter-confessional accord well-known and recognized all over the world as “Kazakhstan`s way”.

Kazakhstan has been home to representatives of approximately 130 ethnic groups (belonging to more than 40 different religions and denominations), who have been fully co-existing. There are about 3200 mosques, churches, houses of prayer and about 4000 religious organizations in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan`s unique experience turned out to be vital at the global level; that is why Astana has been hosting a meeting and dialogue of religious leaders of the world community.

The initiative by President Nursultan Nazarbayev to hold the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Kazakhstan generated great interest among the world community. The leaders of such world powers as Russia, the USA, the UK, France, Egypt, influential politicians and leaders of many religions supported this idea.

The First Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions took place on September 23-24, 2003 in Astana. Representatives of 17 religiousorganizations of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Shinto, Taoism and other confessions from 13 countries of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East participated in the Forum.

The Congress convincingly demonstrated the relevance and necessity of fulfilling the idea of cooperation and unity of representatives of different religions for the sake of peaceful and worthy life of the people of the entire planet. Its outcomes were reflected in the Declaration, which stated that every religion should aspire to spread such great and timeless values as justice, truth, humanity, tolerance.  Extremism, terrorism and other forms of violence and crime, committed under the cover of religious banners, have nothing to do with true faith. The great achievement of the Congress was that Kazakhstan emerged as the country, which achieved true public and inter-religious accord and unity.

At the First Congress participants of the Forum decided to hold forums of the leaders of the world and traditional religions on a regular basis and to establish a working body – the Secretariat of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

On September 12-13, 2006 the Second Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions which took place in Astana in a specially built Palace of Peace brought together 29 religious delegations from 26 countries. The Congress took place under the general theme “Religion, Society and International Security” in two blocks: “Freedom of Religion and Recognition of Other” and “The role of Religious Leaders in Enhancing International Security”. Participants of the Forum discussed the most pressing issues of humanity in globalization – freedom of religion, recognition of other and the role of religious leaders in enhancing international security taking into consideration new threats and challenges.

Third Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions that held on June 1-2, 2009 was attended by 77 delegations from 35 countries. Leaders and representatives of all major confessions, outstanding politicians, prominent figures and experts were among more than 300 participants of the Forum, involved in inter-confessional and inter-civilization dialogue, representatives of international organizations united by the noble idea of an open dialogue among cultures and religions to build a secure and stable world.

The theme of 4th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions that held on May 30-31, 2012 in Astana was “Peace and harmony as the choice of mankind”. Participants of the Congress represented by prominent religious figures, famous theologians, politicians and public figures had discussions during the working sessions for such relevant topics for international community as “The role of religious leaders in achieving sustainable development”, “Religion and multiculturalism”, “Religion and woman: spiritual values and contemporary challenges” and “Religion and the youth”.

Fifth Congress of World Religions

For almost 10 years of its existence the Congress has passed a difficult way of development and emergence as a major international platform of dialogue for representatives of various religions and confessions. The Congress is being dedicated to actual problems of inter-civilization and inter-religious relations, ways of cooperation between religious leaders to achieve peace and harmony on the planet.

The activity of the Congress is complemented by the decision of UNESCO to proclaim the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures from 2013 to 2022, which was made by the initiative of Kazakhstan.

Why people of Kazakhstan are proactive in interfaith harmony initiative?  

People in Kazakhstan know that economic reforms, social progress and democratization are impossible if the national harmony remains unsolved. That’s why the government in Kazakhstan does its best to create a stable environment for preserving languages and cultures of different nations living on its territory, and creating equal opportunities for the representatives of different confessions. In all large cities in Kazakhstan mosques peacefully coexist with orthodox and catholic churches, synagogues and even gospel halls.

The Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan, a unique institution established in Kazakhstan two decades ago, acts as a guarantor for equality of rights and freedoms of citizens regardless of their nationality, language or faith. It is not merely a formal institution and it possesses real power: the members of the Assembly elect 9 representatives to serve in the Lower House of Parliament and all the laws proposed by this House undergo a compulsory check with the Assembly to see if they match the criteria of interethnic accordance and equality.

A special role in consolidation of Kazakhstani society is reserved for the Doctrine of National Unity. It serves as a base for further improvement of legislation in the sphere of national politics, development of ethno-cultural and linguistic diversity in the country and combating religious radicalism and extremism. Kazakhstan devotes special attention to this last part and this experience could be useful for other countries. In the era of globalization many local threats grow to gain international character. ISIS is great example of a global threat- it has up to 50,000 supporters of radical Islam fighting under its banners, many of whom come from prosperous first-world countries.

Kazakhstan fights religious extremism in several ways. Two years ago a government programme, targeting this problem was created in the republic. The programme puts the emphasis on religious education. Kazakhstani theologians regularly give public talks explaining the difference between Islam and Islamism. An Internet portal containing verified information about religion was also created as a part of the programme. Higher education establishments in Kazakhstan offer free courses of Islamic studies, a step that was taken to inform the public and make citizens more aware of what religion actually is. Law enforcement agencies in the country successfully suppress any displays of religious extremism.

Even the most skeptical experts today consider Kazakhstan to be one of the very few pillars of stability in modern turbulent times. Kazakhstan’s success in this matter lies in peaceful relationships between all ethnic groups in the country. This factor allows the Central Asian republic to create a positive image for itself on the international scene, attract major financial investments, support innovative industrial development, become one the most successful economies in the CIS, and ambitiously plan to enter top 30 strongest economies on the planet.  Kazakhstan is a formidable example of nationwide and interfaith consensus and is a living proof of the fact that everybody wins from peace, but only a few win from war.

While reading previous working papers of Congress, I found a line in the speech of President of Kazakhstan delivered on September 14, 2006.  This line is a complete Narrative for me to fight and counter extremism. He rightly said:

“Political conflicts can no longer be solved exclusively on the political level”