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Astana, June 1: The 4th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions entitled “Peace and Accord as a Choice of Mankind” took place in Astana on May 30-31 under the chairmanship of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The Congress brought together Muslims and Christians, Jews and Buddhists, as well as representatives of Hinduism, Shintoism, and Zoroastrianism.

Over 87 delegations from 40 countries, including leaders of religious confessions and organizations, heads of state, politicians and public figures, members of international organizations, as well as experts participated in the Congress. Over 70 journalists from all over the world covered the event.

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Secretary General of the Muslim World League Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Mohsin Al-Turki, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Special Envoy ofthe Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, Grand Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyib, Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, General Secretary of The Lutheran World Federation Martin Junge and others were among the distinguished guests of the event.

The Congress covered topics such as the role of religious leaders in achieving sustainable development, religion and multiculturalism, religion and women, as well as religion and youth.

In his welcoming address, President Nursultan Nazarbayev highlighted that the 4th Congress of Religious Leaders was held at a critical time for the whole world.

“The quality and quantitative growth of our forum is evident today. The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions became a unique part of the international dialogue. We appreciate the support rendered for the forum by the UN, UNESCO, ISESCO and heads of a number of other international organizations, outstanding politicians and public figures,” he said.

“A strong impetus for dialogue remains an in-demand trend in the modern global processes despite all the difficulties in global development. I am confident that the 4th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions will go down in history as an important part of the global dialogue that leads the humanity to finding fair world order in the 21st century,” he added.

Over the years of independence, Kazakhstan has managed to create a unique model of interethnic and interfaith harmony, which is very well known and recognized in the world.

Against the backdrop of interethnic and interfaith clashes that happen from time to time in various parts of the world, this unique experience of Kazakhstan has proven to be of interest at the global level. It is not by chance that Astana has become a venue for convening religious leaders of the world community.

Kazakhstan has always been an intersection, where various religions, cultures and civilizations of the East and West meet. The basis of spiritual accord in Kazakhstan is historically due to the open religious mentality of Kazakhstan people, which is expressed in tolerance, flexibility and respectful attitude toward the spiritual and cultural values of people of different nationalities and religions.

Different people and cultures can achieve peace only through dialogue and mutual consent. “The President and people of Kazakhstan have succeeded in this. Kazakhstan’s success in ensuring inter-confessional accord and tolerance is the example for the whole world,” Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar said.

“Differences between religions are not so important as the mutual understanding and tolerance, capacity to hurdle inter-confessional barriers and overcome challenges of multicultural world. The Congress in Astana provides such an opportunity as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has made a “new UN” uniting not only nations, but also religions, cultures and societies with various ideologies and world-view,” Amar concluded.

In this regard, Kazakhstan with its multi-ethnic and multi-confessional population drawn from both Asia and Europe is really an ideal candidate for the role of mediator. Kazakhstan has sufficient authority and influence to maintain contacts with all interested parties and seek solutions to the most complicated issues. Moreover, representatives of different religions, who participated in the Congress, expressed their support and importance of Kazakhstan’s initiative to host such a Congress.

Kazakhstan achieved success in promoting the ideology of dialogue of civilizations, peaceful coexistence of religions and cultures in the international community, Chairman of the Russian Muftis Council Sheikh Ravil Gaynutdin stated at a press conference in Astana.

As the Chairman of the Council said, this is a great achievement of the people of Kazakhstan and President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

“Today, at the same table sat the leaders of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and other religions. They all say that we should contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the world,” Ravil Gaynutdin noted.

“The Holy See supports the initiatives of mutual understanding and efforts on sustainable development and respect for human being, example of which is the Kazakh Religions' Congress,” Cardinal emeritus President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and emeritus President of the Governorate of Vatican City State Giovanni Lajolo said during the Congress.

“Main conditions for peace are freedom, truth, love and justice. Peace is impossible without free religion in a society, without respect for truth and perception of the needs of others as our own, without respect for their rights and freedoms,” Cardinal Lajolo said.

The Governor of Vatican, who is also a member of the Council of Religious Leaders, on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI conveyed warm greetings and wishes of peace and good to the forum participants as well as all citizens of Kazakhstan.

On the sidelines of the Congress, President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed to create a special commission under the Council of religious leaders with a purpose of developing recommendations for the UN.

“The work on the establishment of a special commission, under the auspices of the Council of religious leaders, which would develop recommendations to the UN and to all concerned agencies and states on overcoming global problems and reducing the conflict, seems possible,” President Nazarbayev said closing the Congress.

He proposed to “broadcast experience” of the Congress in Astana at the level of nation states, as well as separate regions distinguished by a rich ethno-religious diversity and a high potential for conflict.

In addition, Kazakhstan President suggested creating a common Internet Web-site for all religions.

“I suggest launching an Internet-resource aimed for forming and enhancing the global tolerance and trust. As an option, it could be made a part of the general information portal of G-global. It is important that it would include interactive meetings of the Council of Religious Leaders and the Secretariat of our Congress, and regular online forums for a broad range of Internet-users. I hope that you will support this suggestion,” Nursultan Nazarbayev said at the plenary meeting of the Congress.

President Nazarbayev closed the Congress, which took place at the Palace of Accord and Peace, on May 31, thanking all participants of the religious forum for fruitful work.

“I would like to thank you all once again for coming here and being with us under the Kazakhstan’s sky, praising the peace and accord in our country, mentioning us in your prayers and wishing Kazakhstan people eternal prosperity,” he emphasized at the closing ceremony in Astana.

On the same day, Kazakhstan marked the Day of Remembrance. All the participants of the Congress took part in the opening ceremony of a monument dedicated to the victims of political repressions and famine of 1932-1933, visited the ALZHIR museum located at the former concentration camp, as well as held a joint prayer in memory of the victims.

The Astana religious forum resulted in adopting an appeal by participants of the 4th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. Full text of the appeal is available at http://portal.mfa.kz/portal/page/portal/mfa/en/content/news/nws2012/2012-05-31.

According to President Nazarbayev, the 5th Congress will be held in 2015.

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Japan©2012