Nur-Sultan – The Kazakh capital will host the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions on September 14-15.
Considering the geopolitical situation around the world and the post-pandemic crisis, the role of religious leaders in conflict resolution is more relevant than ever, said the Nazarbayev Center for Development of Interfaith and Intercivilization in an interview with The Astana Times. Says the chairman of the dialogue Bulat Sarsenbayev.
Established in 2019 at the initiative of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and with the support of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President of Kazakhstan, the center serves as the main coordinating body of the Congress.
Sarasenbayev highlighted Kazakhstan’s unique experience in strengthening interreligious and interreligious dialogue, which remains in demand globally, and which represents one of the key ways to improve the well-being of all countries.
The theme of the upcoming Congress was determined at the XIX session of the Congress Secretariat – “The role of leaders of world and traditional religions in the spiritual and social development of mankind in the post-epidemic period.”
To what major issues and tasks will the discourses of the Seventh Congress be devoted to?
The pandemic has forced us to make many adjustments in our lifestyle, and hence the importance of spirituality is beginning to manifest itself.
During the Congress, which will be held with the participation of the head of state, the center will hold four breakout sessions on supporting as well as supporting spiritual and moral values, the role of religion in strengthening education and religious knowledge. The social status of women, their contribution to the betterment of society, and combating extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism, especially of religious diversity.
Given the complex geopolitical situation in the world, it should be noted that the Congress is going to be one of the main international events of the year, where Kazakhstan will demonstrate to the world its commitment to the ideas of tolerance, openness, mutual respect . and trust between the state and society.
How many invited guests have confirmed their participation in the upcoming event?
This year, we expect to welcome nearly 100 delegations from 60 countries, including representatives of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and other religions.
Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all of Russia, Mohamed Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, and delegations from major religious and international organizations from the United States, Europe and Asia plans to attend Congress.
We also expect to have over 100 international media representatives accredited for the event.
The Congress assembles not only the religious representatives, but also the first persons of the Confession, which may affect many of the issues on the agenda. They see Kazakhstan as a reliable and predictable partner, and this reflects a high assessment of our country’s policy in the field of spirituality. I should note that Congress unites people who would not be sitting together at the same table anywhere else.
What is the Congress’s growth dynamics since 2003? Has the number of participants increased?
The idea of holding the Congress was timely and supported by world politicians including Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Margaret Thatcher and others. The first Congress was held in 2003 after the events of 2001, when the radicalization of society on religious lines was intensifying.
Following the results of the actual talks on the spiritual connection of religious communities after each of the six congresses of leaders of world and traditional religions held in Nur-Sultan in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018, the parties involved adopted a joint Launched announcements
With each visit, the number of participants gradually increased. For comparison, 17 delegations from 13 countries attended the first Congress in 2003, and for this year – we expect about 100 delegations from 60 countries.
This year, the National Museum will present an exhibition in a new format dedicated to the history of religion in the territory of Kazakhstan. We will also offer them to see a photo exhibition about the history of all six congresses in Batterek Tower [a monument and observation deck], and in the KazMedia Center, a TV broadcasting center dedicated to Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. The Independence Palace will also arrange an exhibition of paintings selected in the competition among school children of Nur-Sultan organized by the center on the eve of Children’s Day.
What other activities come under the purview of the Centre?
In addition to the main preparatory work for Congress, the center studies and monitors the religious situation in the country, and conducts religious expertise, for example, to prevent the threat of radicalization of the population.
Today, more than 100 ethnic groups and 18 officially registered confessions live on the territory of our country. The situation is completely under control, as we have a well-established dialogue between the government and the legal representatives of different religions.
Kazakhstan has historically been at the crossroads of several religions that were spread across its territory, most notably Islam and Tengrism. The Caspian Sea region is the birthplace of Zoroastrianism. Buddhism, which originated on the border of Nepal and India, gained worldwide development through the Kushan Empire, a syncretic empire formed in the early 1st century. Christians also lived on our territory in the fifth century, and only after six centuries their religion began to spread to Russia.
In keeping with our history, it is our moral obligation to host such a meaningful event soon in September.