Interreligious and Interethnic Consent
“Members of diverse societies and communities who live side by side with each other and work together pick up the best qualities from each other and achieve high grounds of morality and goodness” --Abay, Kazakh poet and enlightener, XIX c.
With the aid of the Great Silk Road, which extended through the territory of Kazakhstan, a bridge was formed between the East and the West. As a result, monotheism actively spread to the territory of Kazakhstan, a clear indication that contemporary world religions were replacing Paganism. Likewise, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism all passed through the country and became an integral part of Eurasia's history and culture.
There are 2,993 religious unions representing more than 40 confessions in Kazakhstan:
- Muslim – 1,638
- Orthodox - 237
- Protestant - 949
- Catholic - 73
- Jewish - 21
- Other – 75
Kazakhstan also welcomes 262 foreign missionaries.
There are more than 4,000 religious groups in Kazakhstan representing 46 confessions. Since the first days of Kazakhstan's independence, the amount of Orthodox churches is four times what it was, and Catholic churches have doubled. The Republic has more than 1,000 missions, 27 synagogues, and for the first time in many centuries a Buddhist temple has been built in the country. In addition, 38 media outlets are run by religious organizations.
Many nationalities have come to Kazakhstan not on their own will, but were driven here by political repression and persecution. In the time of Stalin, Kazakhstan hosted 1.5 million political prisoners from Russia and other regions of the USSR. More than 1.3 million people were deported by Stalin’s regime during World War II years “as representatives of unreliable nations.” These include natives of the Northern Caucasus, Germans from the Volga region, Koreans from the Far East, Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Poles, and Eastern Europeans. The people of Kazakhstan welcomed them, and millions have established Kazakhstan as their second Motherland.
The population of Kazakhstan is variegated by its ethnic compound. Representatives of 130 nationalities reside peacefully in Kazakhstan:
- Kazakh, 58.9 percent
- Russian, 25.8 percent
- Ukrainian, 2.9 percent
- Uzbek, 2,8 percent
- Uighur, Tatar and German, 1.5 percent each
- Other groups (more than 100), 4.3 percent.
Legal guarantees and respectful treatment of all the languages used in the republic defend the integral right of citizens of any nationality to develop their language and culture. To further demonstrate the balance that exists as a result of this national policy, it should be noted that there are 2,067 multi-lingual schools and 90 of them teach entirely in ethnic languages; 40 percent of secondary schools use Russian language in teaching, and 70 percent of colleges and universities offer courses taught in Russian. Many ethnic schools also teach in Uigur, Tadzhik, Ukrainian, German, and Polish. Furthermore, Kazakhstan has roughly 200 Sunday schools in which representatives of more than 30 different ethnic groups can study their respective languages.
The government continues to lend its financial support to newspapers, magazines, TV and radio shows in 324 ethnic languages. In addition, there are Uighur, German and Korean theaters; during the last nine years, the financing for Korean theaters has multiplied, a noteworthy achievement for the only ones of their kind remaining in the former Soviet Union.
Ethnic and Religious Peace
Civil peace and consent are the result of Kazakhstan’s persistent, interethnic, government policy, based on the principle of unity in variety. The Republic’s efforts to ensure inter-ethnic peace and accord are essential for internal stability and are widely recognized in the world. UN General Secretary Koffi Annan, who paid visits to Kazakhstan over the last five years, cited Kazakhstan as the example of inter-ethnic consent and sustainable development of a multi-ethnic society.
Kazakhstan’s efforts to ensure inter-religious harmony have also been fully approved by international religious leaders, including Pope John Paul II, Patriarch of Moscow and Russia; Aleksiy II; Dr. Mohammad Seid Tantawi, Sheikh and Great Imam of the Al Azhar Mosque in Egypt; and Jonah Metsger, the Chief Rabbi of Israel.
One of the brightest examples of their success in avoiding potentially dangerous conflicts is the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Jews. Today, more than 70,000 Jews live in the republic. Additionally, Kazakhstan is the only Muslim country in the world where 10 synagogues were opened during the last three years.
The appreciation for the value of religious tolerance, the dialogue between national confessions and cultures, the well-conceived state policy in the field of religion, and the tradition of uniting representatives of varying religions for the strengthening of society’s stability lead to a conclusion: spiritual accord in Kazakhstan is not an abstract idea but a reality.