Dr Pravesh Kumar Gupta
In today’s world, when there is confusion, hostility and chaos everywhere. It is critical to highlight spiritual and religious teachings that promote world peace and harmony. It goes without saying that all religions advocate inter-faith harmony but there are fewer indications of this solidarity when it comes to avoiding conflicts and fostering peace. Kazakhstan’s role in creating a platform for inter-religious, inter-civilizational, and inter-cultural dialogue and discussions is crucial. At the 74th UN General Assembly in 2019, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stated that, over time, Kazakhstan has emerged as an important center for interreligious dialogue.
Against this backdrop, on September 14–15, 2022, Astana (the capital city of the Republic of Kazakhstan) hosted the Seventh Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. This first Congress took place in 2003 and is held every three years. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the former President of Kazakhstan, was the driving force behind this initiative to promote understanding and dialogue across different religions, ethnic groups, and civilizations.
The VII Congress was attended by more than 100 representatives from 50 different nations. In addition to representatives from different religions, including Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Baha’i, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Taoism, Shintoism, Buddhism, and others; Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, attended the Congress as the Chief Guest.
Some crucial issues were raised in this Congress which need to be highlighted-
Since religious leaders have the potential to sway political choices, their importance in politics cannot be understated. However, that can only be accomplished if all major religions work together. In this way, Congress has given religious leaders an important forum for debating current issues and reaching a consensus on matters impacting mankind.
Pope Francis emphasised that ideas that incite hatred among the people must be condemned firmly. Religion is not a problem; rather, it encourages peaceful co-existence in society. Religion is necessary to provide our need for peacefulness. Furthermore, the Pope emphasised the significance of assisting those in need. The pandemic has exposed all of our planet’s inequalities. As a result, everyone must join together to fight injustice and promote equality. Unquestionably, a single nation could not have successfully combated a pandemic like Covid-19 on its own. Global unity was crucial in reducing the pandemic’s impact. There are still deficiencies that must be resolved in order to improve cooperative readiness to confront future pandemics.
In his opening remarks, President Tokayev emphasised the need for people to come together to develop a new international security system. He also called attention to the need to develop humanistic philosophy and enduring spiritual principles as one of the key goals of the Congress of World and Traditional Religions. His views are highly relevant to modern society. Still, there must be a consensus among political and religious leaders in order to achieve the larger aim of global reconciliation and peace.
Women have an important societal role and contribute greatly to its growth and development. However, there are still numerous stereotypes concerning women. They face discrimination in the workplace, and their political participation is limited. Throughout the debate on this issue in this Congress, there was a general agreement that women’s rights and roles should be highlighted. Religious leaders emphasised the need to avoid and resolve racial, religious, and cultural divides and combat intolerance and hate speech. The importance of education and spirituality in one’s personal and interreligious progress was also highlighted.
According to President Tokayev, “power politics” and “hate speech,” both of which contribute to the mutual alienation of countries, the collapse of governments, and the degradation of international relations, should be jointly condemned. It is more important than ever to capitalize on religion’s role in bringing peace and stability. In this regard, religious leaders have a bigger role to play. Against the ongoing inter-state conflicts, Kazakh President referred to developing a tension hotspot that impacts the participating countries and those who are not directly involved.
In 2025, Astana will host the VIII Congress of World and Traditional Religious Leaders. Dialogue and discussions are indeed required to overcome any conflict, and religious Congress still offers a lot of promise. However, to fully achieve the potential of Kazakhstan’s effort, all religions must be represented equally, and there must be more mutual agreement among them on modern challenges.
The author is Senior Research Associate, Vivekananda International Foundation.
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