Kazakhstan attaches great importance to the global promotion of peace and development of interconfessional dialogue. In September 2003, Kazakhstan organized and hosted the first ever Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, which gathered senior clerics from Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism and other faiths. The Congress, held at the initiative of President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan's capital, drew wide-spread support from political leaders of both Western and Asian nations. Many US senators, members of Congress, as well as President George W. Bush have sent letters to President Nazarbayev in support of the Congress.
On September 12-13, 2006 Kazakhstan’s capital Astana hosted the Second Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions which gathered over 40 religious leaders, their representatives and envoys representing world and traditional religions as well as the representatives of international religious organizations. The religious leaders signed a solemn Declaration “together to tackle and ultimately eliminate prejudice, ignorance and misrepresentation of other religions” as a contribution in the global fight against terrorism. The Congress’ participants confirmed their intention to reinforce the process of inter-religious dialogue and to meet again in Astana in 2009.
The Third Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions was held on July 1-2, 2009 in Astana. During the congress, religious leaders, public figures, scientists, the mass media, and the global community were asked by participants to engage in the following undertakings:
- Continuously support and facilitate the efforts of religious leaders and organizations towards genuine inter-religious dialogue, and to address the urgent problems of humanity so as to find proper solutions, thereby recognizing the positive role that religions can and should play in society.
- Promote comprehension of the specific character of each religion and culture and support dialogue among religions and civilizations in order to enhance mutual understanding and respect through education.
- Counteract the manipulation of religions or religious differences for political ends so as to preserve the unity of the society in the respect for legitimate diversity.
- Deepen mutual understanding by means of cultural exchanges, and cooperation in the field of education, always protecting the right of religious freedom and its effective implementation.
- Demonstrate greater moral and spiritual strength and genuine solidarity in pursuing just solutions to the economic, financial, social and environmental problems plaguing the globalized world.
Meetings of the Secretariat of the Congress
Meetings of the Secretariat of the Congress are held at least once a year. The first such meeting was held in October 2004, in Turkestan, located in southern Kazakhstan.
The June 2005 meeting of the Secretariat, held in Almaty, gathered representatives of 19 religious associations from various nations, including the UK, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan, France, Russia, China, Mongolia, Israel. The meeting adopted the Concept of the Second Congress and established the motto: “Religion, Society and International Security.” Accordingly, participants developed and instituted The Principles of the Interreligious Dialogue which state, "the interconfessional dialogue must be based on the honesty, tolerance, humility and mutual respect.”
The Secretariat also drafted the Charter of the Congress for the consideration at the Second Interconfessional Congress in 2006. In April 2006, Kazakhstan hosted the Fourth Meeting of the Secretariat of the Congress which took place in Astana. Participants from all over the world approved the draft declaration, themes, and agenda of the Second Congress: to promote freedom of conscience, increase the recognition of religious leaders, and support their roles in the strengthening of international security. An internationally renowned religious activist and special envoy of the National Council of Churches, Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawaradhana, took part in the Secretariat meetings.
Inspired by Kazakhstan’s interreligious initiative, the UN General Assembly adopted the Resolution on Promotion of Interreligious Dialogue on November 12, 2004. This document stresses the commitment of all religions to peace and stability throughout the world and beseeches the international community to promote the development of an interreligious dialogue. By adopting this Resolution, the community of nations has demonstrated support for Kazakhstan’s efforts in promoting a culture of peace.
The OSCE Forum on Interreligious, Interethnic and Intercultural Understanding was held in Almaty, on June 12-13, 2006. This meeting, designed to promote tolerance and ethnic understanding, gathered about 150 representatives, from throughout the OSCE region. Participants discussed the role of civil society in inter-cultural, inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue and developed recommendations for the participating States as well as the OSCE institutions. Such suggestions include:
Adhering to previous commitments to guarantee freedom of assembly
- Adopting and wherever necessary strengthening comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation and pursuing antidiscrimination policies proactively
- Strengthening the implementation of the body of commitments
- Respecting the linguistic and cultural heritage of minorities in order to safeguard against discrimination on these grounds
- Recognizing that political representatives have a moral imperative and social responsibility to speak out against hate-motivated acts and incidents
- Avoiding the use of intolerant and inflammatory statements which may incite prejudice, hatred or hostility against individuals or groups on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability
- Fostering an awareness by the media of their political, social, societal and ethical responsibility to prevent discriminatory and inflammatory public discourse
- Acknowledging the specific asset of youth engaged in the fight against intolerance and encouraging and facilitating its involvement in the decision making process
- Facilitating the emergence of a youth forum on tolerance, non discrimination, mutual respect and understanding.
The Ministerial Conference “Common World: Progress Through Diversity” took place in Astana on October 17, 2008. It was attended by heads and official representatives of more than 65 states and international organizations. Participants exchanged opinions and discussed different topics related to the issues of inter-civilization dialogue, such as:
- Deepening the understanding between the Muslim world and the West
- Stabilizing the modern world
- Establishing lasting peace and stability
- Eliminating islamophobia, xenophobia, and 'westernophobia'
- Promoting tolerance
- Encouraging media activity
- Fostering modern education
- Strengthening the roles of youth and women in peer dialogue and human rights.
The Conference concluded with the adoption of the Astana Declaration, which underscored the importance of diversity at global and national levels, within civilizations, cultures, religions, and individuals; and rejected “any forms of tension, based on religious, confessional, cultural and civilization differences, and their use for fuelling the hatred, xenophobia and confrontation.”