Fri, 22 Sep 2023

Nur-Sultan [Kazakhstan], September 21 (ANI): Seventh Congress of the Leaders of the World and Traditional Religions was hosted by Kazakhstan where the eminent leaders called for confronting the global concerns of the post-pandemic world, such as climate change, poverty and hunger, organised crime, terrorism, and narcotics with a humanitarian approach, Vivekananda International Foundation reported.

The Congress, an initiative which was formulated by former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was held from September 14-15, 2022 which saw the presence of world religious leaders including Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church and other eminent personalities, reported Vivekananda International Foundation.

The Seventh Congress comes in the backdrop of a world which is still recuperating from the COVID-19 pandemic and dealing with the fallout from the Ukrainian crisis. The theme of this year's congress, "The Role of World Religious Leaders in Human Spiritual and Social Development in the Post-Pandemic Period," centred on finding answers to the current issues.

It was attended by 17 delegations from 23 countries and was attended by over 100 representatives from 50 nations of the world.

Other eminent participants included Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad At-Tayeb, Supreme Imam of Al-Azhar; Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate (deputy of Russian Patriarch Kirill); Yitzhak Yosef, Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel; Theophilus III, Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem; Miguel Angel Moratinos, UN Under Secretary General and High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations; David Lau, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel and Joe Bailey Wells, Bishop of Dorking, Special Representative of the Anglican Church among others.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave his remarks through a video message. The opening and closing ceremonies of the congress were both attended by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who also delivered his remarks, Vivekananda International Foundation reported.

The concept of the Congress emerged in Kazakhstan, a multi-religious and secular state provides religious freedom to all of its nearly 18 religious groups.

The country has a diversified population of 19.2 million people and has over 3,200 places of worship and approximately 4,000 religious organisations. Kazakhstan has a multiethnic society comprising 70pc Kazakh, 18pc Russian, 3pc Uzbek, 1.4pc Ukrainian, 1.4pc Uighur, 1.08pc Tatar, 0.95pc German, and 4pc others (Census 2021).

Though Islam is the most common religion (about 70pc), people of all religions live in peace, protected by Kazakhstan's Constitution, which provides the right and freedom to practice any religion or believe.

Over the years and with concerted efforts, Kazakhstan has developed into a major centre for an inter-religious interface, as President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stated at the 74th UN General Assembly in 2019.

Against his background, the concept for the Congress initially emerged during Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Kazakhstan on September 22-25, 2001. Following the events of September 11, 2001, which thrust extremism and terrorism to the forefront of the international agenda, the head of the Catholic Church visited Kazakhstan.

The Congress is very significant as it is an undeniable fact that, when the world was experiencing a rigorous lockdown due to the pandemic, spirituality and religion helped the public to maintain inner peace and calm, Vivekananda International Foundation reported.

Even in India, rebroadcasting of religious epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata during the lockdowns enabled people to get a spiritual awakening and form positive views during this difficult period.

The relevance of religious leaders in politics cannot be underestimated since they have the ability to influence political decisions. But in order to achieve that, there must be unity among the many religions. In this sense, the Congress has given the heads of the various faiths an essential forum to engage in constructive discourse and come to a consensus on contemporary issues impacting mankind.

President Tokayev in his opening remarks underlined the necessity for unity among people in order to create a new system of international security. He also underscored the need of progressing philosophy of humanism and enduring spiritual principles as one of the main objectives of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

The outcome of the VII Congress of Leaders of the World and Traditional Religions was the emphasis on shared values in the spiritual and social growth of human beings. The religious leaders noted the significance of combating and overcoming intolerance and hate speech, xenophobia, discrimination, and disputes based on ethnic, religious, and cultural differences. Further, emphasis was laid on the importance of education and spirituality for personal and inter-religious development, as well as the role and rights of women in society.

The leaders also criticised the formation of hotspots of interstate and international conflict across the world and voiced grave concerns about the rise in the number of migrants and refugees in need of humanitarian aid and protection as a result of these crises.

Furthermore, the leaders also concurred that it is imperative for spiritual and political leaders to collaborate in order to overcome the difficulties facing the modern world. Additionally, they highlighted the prospect for the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions to take additional concrete actions to advance the interreligious, intercultural, and inter-civilisational discussion in order to prevent violence and promote peace.

Pope Francis delivered the keynote message to the VII Congress of World and Traditional Religious Leaders stressing that "there is an urgent need to cleanse our minds and to set aside the history books and the dialogues that have long fostered a hatred of religion. Religion is not an issue, but rather something that encourages peaceful coexistence in society. Religion is required to satiate our need for serenity."As a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state, Kazakhstan has become a focal point for inter-religious, inter-cultural, and inter-civilizational discussion and interaction. Astana has played a major role in developing a critical forum for conflict avoidance through the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

This year's congress focussed on the role of religious leaders in promoting social and cultural values in the post-pandemic period, with leaders from many religions and faiths putting up suggestions to contribute to society's well-being. The next congress will be held in Astana in September 2025, Vivekananda International Foundation reported. (ANI)

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