Kairat MAMI, Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Head of the Secretariat of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions
Over the years of independence, Kazakhstan has created its own unique model of society of interethnic and inter-confessional accord known and recognized worldwide as the ‘Kazakhstan’s way’. Against the background of interethnic and religious conflicts emerging in the world, such a unique Kazakhstan experience was in demand at the global level. It is obvious that Astana became a meeting point and an interactive platform for religious leaders of the global community.
Globalization of trade-economic and political relations is accompanied in the world by globalization of challenges faced by humanity in everyday life. Such a commonplace concept as ‘modern challenges and threats’ includes a wide range of issues, that need serious attention and analysis. As the experience shows, it is impossible to avoid them or move away for the future. They must be dealt with, since modern challenges directly affect the today’s life of human and society, in particular, cultural and spiritual, family values, ideals and guides of life, welfare and safety.
The fact that religions and spiritual values outlined civilizations and cultures is a truism. Consequently, every person is a carrier of values and knowledge that he or she will receive while living in own family, environment, community and society. As practice shows, one of the factors of tensions and conflicts in today’s world is the lack of proper mutual understanding among representatives of different communities belonging to different religions, faiths and cultures.
It is the lack of proper understanding is the basis of religious conflicts, such as the caricature scandals, inter-community clashes, insult of religious buildings and tombs, artificially provoked fear of men with regards to migrants and representatives of other religions, as well as opposition, refusing to understand the spiritual order values of another person. Unfortunately, the threat of religious extremism and terror does not diminish; its ideology, hiding behind the holy ideals of religion, is sowing the seeds of discord and mistrust among people trying to capture the minds and influence the attitudes of citizens in different parts of our planet.
In view of the rise of conflicts and clashes on inter-religious and intercultural basis, as well as due to the fact that these issues became global, the world is now actively exploring the essence of the factors of this problem and looking for ways to tackle it.
In this context, it should be noted that Kazakhstan, at the initiative of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was the first state in the history of our time engaged in promoting inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogue, and now other countries and blocs also want to contribute to this good initiative. Kazakhstan, one of the first among subjects of international law, took responsibility and actually started promoting dialogue between the various leaders of world and traditional religions and faiths.
The first Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, convened in 2003 at the initiative of the Head of Kazakhstan, began the process of spiritual rapprochement among the peoples of the world. Later, that process was joined by other forums, professing the purpose of establishing and promoting interreligious, intercultural and inter-civilizational dialogue and understanding, including the Alliance of Civilizations – the forum that was established upon the joint initiative of Spain and Turkey, the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Doha Conference of Interfaith Dialogue, the International Islamic Makkah Conference, the Madrid International Forum, and others. The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, which traditionally meets in the pearl of Eurasia – Astana takes a special position among these peace-making organizations.
It begs the legitimate question: why Kazakhstan began to deal with this issue and what effect will bring the Congress for our country?
Over the human history, our country has never been on its sidelines, it has always been a bridge between civilizations and cultures. The Great Silk Road passed through the territory of modern Kazakhstan and served as a channel of mutual cultural and spiritual enrichment of East and West, North and South. Hellenistic civilization of Alexander of Macedon extended through the Great Steppe, the Buddha’s teachings and scientific achievements of the Islamic world reached China and other parts of eastern Eurasia through the Central Asian territory, brave European travellers, Marco Polo, Plano Carpini and William Rubruck passed through our territory to the capital of the Mongol Empire.
The battle of Talas of 751 between the armies of the Abbasid Caliphate and Turgesh Khanate on the one hand and the army of Tang China had a great influence on the history of Central Asia. In our region, Islam, which had an enormous impact on the rise of cultural and spiritual values, was spread. On the vast territory, which in the future will be known as Kazakhstan, the cities, such as Farab, Ispidzhab (Sairam) Sygnak, Sauran, Sarayshyk and others, emerged and flourished. Galaxy of scientists led by Al-Farabi made an invaluable contribution to world science.
By the will of fate, our ancestors were involved in the construction of the empires of Genghis Khan and Amir Temir. The Central Asian style is clearly traced in such great architectural monuments built by Zahiruddin Babur in South Asia as the Taj Mahal (Agra), Lal Qila (Red Fort – Delhi), Lahore Qila (Lahore fort) and others that are the legacy of empire.
Of course, the above is only scant evidence relating to rich and long history of our country. But they clearly indicate that our ancestors and the rest world always had active interaction and interpenetration of cultural and intellectual achievements. Our country has always been in line with the events that had a significant influence on the formation and development of panhuman and world’s history.
Now, in our 21st century, what did the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions give to the world and Kazakhstan in particular?
I have already noted that this international event has become one of the first summits on promoting interfaith and inter-civilizational dialogue. The Congress has become one of the most effective engines of the global process of interpenetration of spiritual values, preaching and rooting in the minds of the people of holy ideals of traditional religions of mankind.
The Congress for the first time contradistinguished the noble ideas of humanity, building upon centuries of religious teachings, and ideology of ignorance, extremism and terror.
Here, we recall the words of great Abay “Love and justice are the principle of humanity” (Àäàìøûëûқòûң àëäû: ìàõàááàò, ғàäәëәò, ñåç³ì). Indeed, the world at all times relied on these values, by virtue of love, justice and high feelings, peace and stability, wellbeing and prosperity were always maintained in the human community.
Three previous Congresses of religious leaders were attended by leaders and prominent representatives of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and other traditional religions. They held a rich and meaningful conversation on the spiritual rapprochement of communities and nations, made joint declarations and statements of religious leaders addressed to ordinary people, countries and peoples.
Within the Congresses the links among members of different religions and denominations were established and strengthened. This contributed to the growth of confidence and mutual respect among the religious communities, which are the main components of peaceful coexistence and harmony in our common home – the Earth. Kazakhstan, inspiring the global community by good beginnings, won respect and favour in the hearts of people in different parts of the world, because the Congress is held by a young state, guided with confidence to the future by the Leader of nation, the founder of the country. The Congress is held by a relatively young community that achieved impressive success in its independent development and became a model of development in the region. The Congress is held by the country that specifically deals with elimination of marginalization of any ethno-cultural or religious part of society.
Contribution to the development of inter-religious dialogue raised the prestige of our country in the community of nations, in the global structures Kazakhstan became recognizable by its good beginnings, and as a country with a booming economy and society, united on the basis of mutual understanding and mutual respect.
This year, the capital of Kazakhstan will witness the fourth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. Another spiritual Congress, held under the patronage of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, will take place in Astana on 30-31 May under the motto “Peace and Harmony as the Choice of Mankind”.
Within the framework of the fourth Congress a number of thematic blocks will be considered. In particular, the importance of the subject “The Role of Religious Leaders in Achieving Sustainable Development” is defined by the significance of the spiritual leaders’ mission to ensure safe development of humanity, harmony and mutual respect in our communities. The contribution of spiritual leaders of different religions in the resolution of global economic and social issues at the national and international level will also be discussed and noted.
Within the subject “Religion and Multiculturalism” the development of modern society, consisting of representatives of various religions, faiths, races, cultures and geographies will be discussed. Today, the model of ‘integration without assimilation’ is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Experts believe, multiculturalism should allow for interpenetration, enrichment and development of cultural and spiritual values, and respect for different ethnic and religious identity, for other philosophical beliefs should prevail in society.
The third thematic block “Religion and the Woman: Spiritual Values and Contemporary Challenges” will address the issues of strengthening the moral and spiritual foundations of society and the revival of traditional family values, since these values are a precondition for sustainable peace, the key to the knowledge of the meaning and purpose of human existence. The participants of the Congress are convinced that the creative role of a woman in family and society should enjoy deep respect, recognition, and get full support of all people and organizations.
The problem of value orientations and needs of today’s youth, its social preferences will be discussed in the block “Religion and Youth”. And this is also not accidental, since in the near future the youth of the world will take a great burden of responsibility for the preservation of spiritual harmony and mutual respect between cultures and civilizations.
These days, the Secretariat of the Congress is actively preparing for holding the spiritual forum. It will be attended by leaders and representatives of world and traditional religions of the CIS, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and America. Arrival of the well-known prominent politicians to Astana is also expected. I believe the high level participants should contribute to full-fledged dialogue and development of recommendations to be adopted in the final document of the Congress.
Within the forum, the first meeting of the Council of Religious Leaders, established at the suggestion of our President, will be held. The Council, including prominent religious leaders, will be one of the main institutions of the forum.
Interest of the international community to the religious forum, as well as its agenda and the process of preparation allow for assurance that the forthcoming fourth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions will be remembered as a lively and informative event, and will become a real contribution to mutual respect, mutual understanding and agreement on the planet. I am confident that Congress will always be at the forefront of interreligious dialogue for the sake of peace and prosperity of mankind.