Religious leaders must play role in building a more tolerant, inter-communal world: Kazakhstan

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Astana (Kazakhstan), July 1 (ANI): In hosting the two-day Third Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions here from today (July 1 and 2), Kazakhstan and its President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, will promote the key theme of an increased role for religious leaders in building a more tolerant world even as it cuts across national boundaries to globalize.

According to Kazakhstan, which hosted the previous two Congress's (in September 2003 and September 2006); a regular dialogue between the leaders of world and traditional religions opens "wide prospects for mutual cooperation and contributes to overcoming negative manifestations such as violence, fanaticism, extremism and terrorism."

Kazakhstan's initiative has gained worldwide recognition, so much so, that the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution on Promotion of Inter-Religious Dialogue on November 12, 2004. The resolution stresses the commitment of all religions to promote peace and stability all over the world, and appeals to the international community to promote inter-religious dialogue, a culture of peace and greater dialogue among civilizations.

This year, the Third Congress will see the participation of three world religions and more than 60 delegations from different religious confessions, representatives from international organizations such as the United Nations, the Islamic Conference Organization, the OSCE and UNESCO.

The first day of the Congress - the plenary session - will focus on how and what role religious leaders can play in the construction of a world based on tolerance, mutual respect and cooperation.

The second and concluding day will focus on three issues - (1) Moral and cultural wealth, world ethics (2) Dialogue and cooperation and (3) Solidarity, especially in times of crises.

On the sidelines of the Congress, President Nazarbayev will have separate interactions with world religious leaders and guests of honour such as Sheikh Mohammed Saud Tantaui, the Supreme Imam of the University of Al-Azkhar, Mohamed Ahmed Sherif, the Secretary-General of the World Islamic Call Society, Cardinal Jean-Luis Tauran, the President of the Papal Council on Inter-religious dialogue, Yona Metzger, Israel's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, Israel President Shimon Peres, representatives of the UN Secretary General and the OSCE, besides others.

Historically, Kazakhstan has always been a crossroad for dialogue of various religions, cultures and civilizations of the East and West.

The country and its leadership emphatically believes that the cultural and ethical traditions of the Kazakhs has served and will continue to serve as a reliable foundation for maintaining peace, religious freedom and promotion of dialogue.

That it believes in spiritual tolerance is reflected in the co-existence of over 40 religious confessions and denominations, besides 130 nationalities and ethnic groups.

Today, in Kazakhstan, there are 4,173 religious associations (as opposed to 670 in 1990 when it was approaching independence), 2,441 Islamic associations (as opposed to 46 in 1990), 293 Russian Orthodox Church parishes (as opposed to 62 in 1990) and 86 Roman Catholic Church associations (as opposed to 42 in 1990). Jehovah's Witnesses associations have gown from 27 to 78 and Protestant alliances have grown from 13 to 540.

Currently, there are 340 missionaries from 20 foreign countries working in Kazakhstan as opposed to 12 in 1990.

Kazakhstan hopes that this Third Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions will take the next step in "strengthening relationships between confessions and contribute to a global dialogue of civilizations. (ANI)

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