ASTANA – The abuse of religion by “ideologues of terror” remains a threat to peace and progress, and it is up to the world’s spiritual leaders to fight back using weapons of faith and hope, participants at the VI Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions said on Wednesday in Kazakhstan’s capital.
“We need to move to a new level of interaction, to build constructive dialogue between conflicting parties,” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev told 84 delegations from 46 countries at the opening of the congress under the theme “Religious Leaders for a Safe World.”
“I propose all spiritual leaders to address the global community, people and states with a call for peace and security,” he said.
The triennial congress, a Nazarbayev initiative in response to the 9/11 terror attacks, “has become a kind of inter-confessional Davos,” said Kazakh Senate spokesman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in reference to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“Today it is the most representative dialogue platform for all religions, international organizations, politicians and experts,” Tokayev said on the eve of the gathering held at Astana’s iconic Palace of Peace and Reconciliation designed by architect Norman Foster.
“Now, more than ever, the role of spiritual leaders is to shed light on the true essence of religion, dedicated to creation, not destruction,” Tokayev added.
He said the congress must try to prevent the corruption and abuse of faith by “ideologues of terror,” those who make use of “cultural and religious differences and take advantage of the illiteracy of socially vulnerable groups of the population” to create a destructive and “fanatical environment among their followers.”
Yitzhak Yosef, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, noted that “the responsibility now lies with us to be an example of constructive dialogue.”
Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the World Council of Muslim Communities, described the congress as “influential” and said it would contribute to the resolution of conflicts.
“People of different nationalities, cultures and religions meet here and this will contribute to the advancement of all the important issues that are expressed in this congress,” he said.
Distinguished attendees at the opening ceremony of the two-day religious congress included Serbian President Alexander Vucic and the Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Thomas Greminger.
The UN Alliance of Civilizations, the OSCE, UNESCO, and the League of Arab States were among several international organizations that sent delegates to the congress.
Participants included representatives of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shintoism.
Participants at the VI Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions are to close the gathering on Thursday with a joint declaration.