Kazakhstan is rightly called the «crossroads of civilizations»
Originally our republic is a natural border between the major world religions- Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Here for many centuries the representatives of various nations and ethnic groups lived and worked together. Also strong cultural and economic ties that promote mutual enrichment and prosperity were built here. And this colossal wealth people want to preserve and pass on to their descendants.
Over 20 years of its independence, Kazakhstan has managed to pave its way, create its own unique social model of interethnic and interreligious harmony.
Today in our country live more than 130 nationalities and ethnic groups. The number of religious associations reached 3088 represented 17 religious confessions.
What was once considered almost a thin thread, even the weakness of our statehood, the President and the government managed to turn into a strategic resource for the development of the country.
That is why our President has always pointed out that the ethno-cultural and religious diversity of Kazakhstan — a huge wealth, the common heritage of our society, giving the Kazakhs to exchange with other nations valuable cultural achievements.
Respecting and maintaining the best traditions of world and traditional religions, the people of Kazakhstan creates modern secular state.
Religion does not interfere in the political and governmental processes.
In it turn, the state does not interfere in the affairs of religious communities, creating a liberal environment for the full realization of their social, ritual, educational and other problems, integration into social life.
Following to the policy of non-interference in the internal life confessions, the state encourages the development of a dialogue between them, facilitating the full realization of their functions.
Everything mentioned above allowed accumulate wealth for Kazakhstan, historically invaluable experience of peaceful coexistence of different religions, cultures and civilizations. And this in its turn contributed to the formation of similar value orientations of the majority population, creating the atmosphere of tolerance and mutual interfaith harmony.
On the background of emerging world of ethnic and religious conflicts Kazakhstan’s unique experience on strengthen interfaith and interreligious dialogue was in demand at the global level. It is no accident that our young state’s capital — Astana becomes permanent venue and demanded a dialogue platform for religious leaders.
As it is known, in the dialogue of religious leaders of the world community and critical important place belongs to religion and its eternal spiritual values. This is a truism. As for man, he is certainly a bearer of values and knowledge that he gets in his family environment, the community and society. How practical reality shows, one of the stress factors and collisions in the world today is the lack of proper understanding between people — representatives of different communities belonging to different religions and cultures.
Leading politicians and experts from Kazakhstan have common view that it is in the absence of proper understanding lies the nature of religious conflicts, such as caricatures scandals, inter-communal clashes, insulting religious buildings and burials artificially fueled by the fear of migrants and members of other religions, as well as rejection, refusing to understand the value of a spiritual order of another individual.
Also it should be stated that in any way, unfortunately, the threat of religious extremism and terror, which hiding under holy ideals of religion ideology sows the seeds of discord and mistrust between people trying to capture the minds and influence the mood of citizens in different parts of our planet, does not diminish.
Our contemporaries remember the tragic events of September 11, 2001 in the U.S., which made the whole world tremble. The drama of this event is that just a few hours, killing more than 5,000 people — citizens as well as America and an additional 91 states, including — of the post-Soviet countries.
All the above indicates the area of conflict and the rise of collisions on inter-religious and intercultural soil outbreaks of new threats and challenges. These circumstances, in turn, become a prerequisite for active learning purposes factors of this problem and to find new approaches and guidelines to facilitate the further development of the modern world.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, understanding the growing role of religion in society, as well as the real threat posed by terrorist organizations in 2003 put forward the idea of an unprecedented interfaith forum of religious leaders in the capital of Kazakhstan — Astana.
In this context it should be noted that on the initiative of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first in the history of our time engaged in the promotion of inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogue, and now other countries and blocks also want to contribute to this good initiative. Kazakhstan was one of the first among the subjects of international law which took responsibility and actually started promoting dialogue between different leaders of world and traditional religions and faiths.
Nursultan Nazarbayev’s initiative has been widely and well received by the religious authorities, such as the General Secretary of the Muslim World League, Sheikh Al-Turki, Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II, Pope John Paul II, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and many other well-known in the world religious leaders.
Thanks to the support of Heads of State and Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in the land of Kazakhstan on September 23–24, the First Congress of leaders of world and traditional religions was held.
To participate in its work in Astana 17 delegations from 14 countries arrived.
Islam was introduced by delegations from 5 countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Iran.
The Congress received congratulatory messages of the heads of major world powers and global organizations, as well as senior hierarchs of different churches in the face of Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II, Pope John Paul II, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Each of them blessed the meeting of religious leaders and wished success to start a dialogue.
Among the participants of the First Forum was an open exchange of views on the role of religion in the modern world and the universal nature of the basic moral values of all religions.
An important set of issues related to both the identification of the causes of religious conflict and the need to improve inter-religious harmony and mutual respect for each other, the ability to learn from the traditions of other nations, was raised.
Thus, at the 1st Congress a decisive step towards strengthening harmony and constructive dialogue among civilizations, religions, nations and peoples was made. It was noted that interreligious dialogue is one of the key ways of social development and improving the welfare of all peoples.
The work of the 1st Congress culminated in the adoption of the Declaration, in which spiritual leaders announced joint action to promote peace and progress for humanity and ensure the stability of societies as basis for harmonious world in the future.
According to the results of the Congress delegates came to conclusion that dialogue among the religions should be thorough and based on the ability to lead the discussions. The problems related to identification the causes of religious conflicts, the need to improve inter-religious harmony and mutual respect for each other, the ability to learn from the traditions of other nations were raised.
The success of the event has been fixed in the Decision of the 1st Congress, to conduct interreligious forum on a regular basis every 3 years. Kazakhstan was honored to organize and prepare 2nd Congress of leaders of world and traditional religions in the capital of Kazakhstan — Astana in 2006.
On the question of what is the significance of the 1st Congress, can be answered as follows: 1st Congress fulfilled its historical mission and its effective work paved the way for the main preparation and holding of the second, third and fourth Congresses of spiritual leaders.
Working bodies of the Congress — the Congress Secretariat and the Working Group Secretariat on a regular basis carry out activities aimed at substantive and conceptual training documents and materials of the forum, as well as the outcomes of the Congress.
The entire range of issues related to the preparation and conduct of the Congress, the decision of members of the First Congress provided the Kazakh side — the initiator of the event.
Secretariat’s Head of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions is the Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan members of the Secretariat of the Congress — the representatives of the leaders of world and traditional religions involved on interfaith forum.
In the ten years from the date of the convocation of the 1st Congress 11 meetings of the Secretariat of the Congress were held. Anniversary 12th Secretariat of the Congress was planned in September 2013.
As for the participants’ initiatives of the Congress, Kazakhstan strives to embody them in business. For example, on the basis of the decisions of the 1st Congress in Astana erected the majestic Palace of Peace and Accord, designed by renowned architect Norman Foster.
The 2nd Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions was held in Astana on 12–13 September 2006 in this unique architectural structure.
The event was held under the overall theme «Religion, society and international security» in two directions: «Freedom of religion and respect for other religions» and «The role of religious leaders in strengthening international security».
To participate in the forum arrived 25 religious leaders and 14 dignitaries from 26 countries in Europe, America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East to Astana.
As guests of honor were invited prominent political and public figures, including the Director General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, UN Deputy Secretary General Sergey Ordzhonikidze, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, as well as representatives of legislative bodies, non-governmental organizations from different countries.
On the first day of the Forum, the participants adopted a very important document called «Principles of interreligious dialogue».
In its content initial conceptual positions, taken by the leaders of different faiths as immutable tenets of interreligious dialogue, without which it is practically impossible to build a proper dialogue, were clearly defined.
At the end of the Congress, the participants adopted a final document — Declaration calling representatives of all religions and ethnic groups to prevent conflicts based on cultural and religious differences.
Importance of meaningful context of the document is that it succinctly and essentially reflects the global need to replace the era of the «ideology of confrontation» — to «a culture of peace».
One of the major initiatives announced at this Congress was the idea of the establishment of the International Center of Cultures and Religions.
Set of goals and objectives of the International Center of Cultures and Religions clearly marked decisions of the Second and Third Congresses spiritual leaders. According to it the Center should:
-become an intellectual laboratory of peace, harmony and justice;
-study and make proposals to the global agenda;
-by a working structure of the Congress, the supply of all its participants with new ideas and suggestions;
-to enhance the dialogue of different cultures and religions;
-to involve representatives of interfaith dialogue between religious and secular media and youth associations, scientific and creative intelligentsia;
-implement educational, research and humanitarian projects;
-study potentially conflicting aspects of the religious situation in the world, etc.
During the five years of its activities, the Centre actively participated in the preparation and holding of the 3rd and 4th Congresses, four meetings of the Secretariat of the Congress (8–11) and its Working Groups.
In the rank of the working body of the Secretariat and Congress, the Centre together with representatives of the leaders of world and traditional religions participated in the development of conceptual positions of religious forums, thematic focus of Congress and breakout sessions final documents and others.
Today, the Centre has started preparation of the festivities dedicated to honoring the 10th anniversary of the convening of the 1st Congress of leaders of world and traditional religions, where an important milestone will be the organization and provision of 12th Congress Secretariat.
3rd Congress was held in Astana on July 1–2, 2009. The forum came a special line in the annals of Congress as the theme and format of the issues discussed and the level of representation of delegations, their qualitative and quantitative composition.
So, the representatives of more than 77 delegations from 37 countries attended this congress.
For the organizers of the forum was important to increase the number of representative of world religions (Islam, Christianity and Buddhism).
Landmark is the fact that the Third Congress for the first time attended the spiritual leader of one of the oldest religions in the world — Homi Dhalla Burzhor, president of the World Council of Cultural Heritage of Zarathushtra. By the way, he also participated in the Fourth Congress and joined the Council of Religious Leaders.
Distinguishing point is that the 3rd Congress for the first time attended the spiritual leader of one of the oldest religions in the world — Homi Dhalla Burzhor, the president of the World Council of Cultural Heritage of Zaratushtra. So, he also participated in the 4th Congress and joined the Council of Religious Leaders.
The presence of active politicians — the President Israel Shimon Peres, a number of state ministers, senators and congressmen, as well as famous worldwide public and academic figures, gave the prestigious status to the forum.
It should be noted that the representation of high-level members of the 3rd Congress was due to the significance and magnitude of the proposed on the forum problems and issues. An additional workshop in the Group for Cooperation with the Mediterranean partners, whose participants were representatives of the diplomatic corps of foreign states accredited in Kazakhstan, was held within the framework of the Congress.
The outcome of the Congress was the appeal of the participants to the religious and political leaders, public figures, scientists, the media and the world community.
One of the major initiatives of the 3rd Congress was a proposal to create a council of religious leaders to deepen dialogue, economic cooperation and cooperation with other international organizations and forums.
One of the most important phenomena of event in 2012 was held in the capital of Kazakhstan on May 30–31, 4th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, which was held on the theme «Peace and harmony as the choice of mankind».
85 delegates from 40 countries, it is representatives of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, also special guests — representatives of states, governmental and international organizations participated in the work of the 4th Congress.
On the eve of the opening of the Congress a landmark for all members of religions event — the first meeting of the Council of Religious Leaders, which took part and made the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, who first attended the Astana forum.
Establishment of the Council of Religious Leaders gave a special atmosphere and solemnity all subsequent deliberations of the 4th interreligious summit.
The Council consists of representatives of 14 world religions. It’s really important figures in the religious world, persons that have great authority among their flock.
The main activities of the Council are:
-further deepening of mutual understanding and cooperation between people of different religions;
-Strengthening the conceptual framework of a dialogue platform of the Congress;
— Decisions on fundamental issues relating to the activities of the Congress, as well as cooperation with other international organizations and forums.
According to the outcome of the 4th Congress an appeal of its participants adopted.
Participants of the 4th Congress also took part in formation of the spiritual consent of Alley «Ruhani zharasym» where trees were planted, also participated in the unveiling of the monument «Asharshylyқ kyrbandaryna eskertkіsh» — a monument to victims of the famine of 1932–33, visited the museum and memorial complex «Alzhir» and held a joint prayer.
Thus, it is important to note that:
▪ the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions took place in Astana — the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan. They have become a legitimate objective and the reality of modern history and the life of mankind.
▪ the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Astana was established in the eyes of the world as a global platform for dialogue not only spiritual leaders, but a dialogue area for huge amount of believers from different countries.
▪ Astana forum of religious leaders was one of the first summits for promotion interfaith dialogue.
▪ Republic of Kazakhstan, by the initiative of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first in the history of our time actively and purposefully take the promotion of interreligious and inter-civilizational dialogue, thus as one of the first subjects of international law took responsibility and actually began to engage promoting dialogue between different leaders of world and traditional religions.
▪ Kazakhstan, inspiring the world community for good beginnings, has won the hearts of people in different parts of the world respect and benevolence, as Congress was organized by the young state, driven confidently into the future by the Leader of the nation, the country’s founder.
▪ the Congress for the first time, identifying clearly its priorities, contrasted noble ideals of humanity, building upon centuries of religious teachings — the ideology of ignorance, extremism and terror.
▪ the Congress organized a relatively young society which has achieved impressive success in their independent development and has become a model of development in the region.
▪ Congress conducts a country that has been purposefully avoids the marginalization of any ethno-cultural or religious part of society.
▪ the first leaders and distinguished representatives of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and other traditional religions invariably participated in the work of four congresses.
▪ the format and spirit of the Astana Congresses created favorable conditions for dialogue venues for forums invariably passed saturated conversation and meaningful discussions on the spiritual rapprochement of communities and nations, unanimously adopted a joint declaration and the treatment of religious leaders addressed to ordinary citizens, countries and peoples.
▪ within the framework of the Congresses the relationship between representatives of different religions and faiths, which boosted confidence among religious communities and mutual respect, which are the main components of peaceful coexistence and harmony in our common home — the Earth, was established and strengthened.
▪ 1st Congress’s contribution, which led to the institutionalization of the global dialogue platform, thereby literally feat spiritual leaders give each other hand, is unique. It is no secret that there are people in the Congress, which sometimes share not only different religious beliefs and cultural aspects, but also the years of confrontation of states, citizens of which they are.
▪ uniqueness, delicacy and unprecedented of Congress is that representatives of different views in dialogue, exchange ideas, listen and hear each other, on its area. An eloquent example of this is that on the 1st Congress was held a friendly handshake between the Chief Rabbi of Israel Jon Metzger and the Supreme Imam of Al-Azhar at that time, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi. It is well known fact that in the light of the Middle East conflict exacerbation of this fact was called unprecedented in history by everyone.
▪ thanks to the initiatives and proposals, made at the Congress, today there is a council of religious leaders — the governing body of the Congress, which is empowered to deal with appeals and calls to the entire world, and to raise acute issues of the day, look for constructive solutions and act for the benefit of justice and peace.
▪ since 2006, in Astana began its work the Palace of Peace and Accord — a unique architectural construction in the form of pyramids, which are held in its halls three Congresses and carry out their proper functioning brainchild of Congress — International Center of Cultures and Religions.
▪ today the Palace of Peace and Accord is not only a center of tolerance and dialogue, but also a place of scientific research in the fields of philosophy, cultural studies, sociology and religious studies.
▪ during the inter-Congress period, thorough and hard work was conducted by Secretariat of the Congress, its Working Group of the International Center of cultures and religions, as well as the Parliament, the Government, the Presidential Administration, aimed at realization of participants’ initiatives that serves as a basis for the further promotion of the principles of religious tolerance dialogue and understanding in the human community.
▪ one of the most important initiatives of the 4th Congress was the creation of an Internet resource as part of the overall electronic portal G-Global, dedicated to the formation and strengthening of global security.
▪ the Astana Congress religious leaders opened the way for a global space of peace and harmony, celebration of the moral and ethical principles — the foundation of peace and harmony in our common house, called — the Earth.