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Kazakhstan: 5th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions

(By Shahid Qureshi – London Post ) Fifth congress will be held on June 10-11, 2015 in capital Astana. Over years of independence Kazakhstan has been creating its own unique model 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, 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 religious organizations 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, participants of the Forum said.

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.

Addressing the Forum President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev underscored the need to strengthen inter-faith partnership, to further develop inter-confessional dialogue to preserve and strengthen the values of the modern civilization. He outlined the principles of inter-confessional dialogue in the modern world, which were reflected in the unique joint document “The Principles of Interreligious Dialogue”.

From June 1-2, 2009 the Third Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions were 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 most pressing issues of the modern world related to the need for improving the inter-confessional harmony, mutual respect, preventing and avoiding religious conflicts were discussed at the Plenary Session of the Congress which was dedicated to the role of religious leaders in building a world of tolerance, mutual respect and cooperation.

The engaged exchange of views on such themes as “Moral and spiritual values, world ethics”, “Dialogue and cooperation” and “Solidarity, especially in period of crises” was held at group sessions. Discussions demonstrated once again the willingness and strong interest of all spiritual leaders convened in Astana to develop dialogue and mutual understanding.

Religious leaders defined «Peace and harmony as the choice of mankind» as a main topic of the 4th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions held on May 30-31, 2012 in Astana.

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”.

The Council of Religious Leaders began its work within the 4th Congress. This Council was created under initiative by President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the previous Congress. In the consent of improving the activity of the Forum great expectations are laid on the Council, as a governing body of the Congress of World and Traditional 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.

Moreover, the Congress also actively interacts with other international organizations and fora including UN and the UN Alliance of Civilizations. 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.

The Congress Secretariat holds its regular meetings.
Additional information on the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions is available atwww.religionscongress.org

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