The world is becoming less peaceful. This fact is confirmed by the data of the Global Peace Index-2018 (GPI). According to the results of the study – during the last decade the level of conflict in the world has sharply increased. In addition, the peculiarity of the situation of today’s days is the growth of conflicts caused by a religious factor. Under these conditions, the calls for dialogue and the search for consensus through the efforts of the entire international community are of particular importance.
Similar thoughts are inspired by the forthcoming VI Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in October this year in Astana, the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The theme of the Congress is “Religious leaders for a safe world”.
To this day, politicians, academics and socialists are asking the question – why violence and hatred often take place under the guise of religion, while all religions of the world seek peace and justice?
Obviously, there is no unambiguous answer to this question, and if there is, then its solution requires the efforts of the entire international community.
At knower days, the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held in Astana, is the world’s largest dialogue platform, uniting religious figures, politicians, scientists and representatives of international organizations to discuss the most pressing issues and find common orientations on various aspects related to religion and politics.
For the first time leaders of the world clergy arrived in the capital of Kazakhstan exactly 15 years ago – in 2003. Then many politicians of the world, including Vladimir Putin, George Bush Jr., Jiang Zemin, Kofi Annan, Margaret Thatcher supported the initiative of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev to hold a worldwide dialogue on religion.
The following meetings were held every three years – in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015, and each of them was accompanied by the signing of the final Declaration. In this document, delegates declare their joint actions to ensure and preserve peace, and also appeal to the world community. All the final materials of the past congresses are available in the public domain.
Over the years of work of these Congresses, their relevance has not been questioned either in Kazakhstan or in the world. After all, the Astana dialogue format is unique, and its goals are noble.
The number of delegations accepted by Astana is continuously growing and reaches 90 representative offices from more than 40 countries of the world. By the way, in 2015, the honorary guests of the V Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions were the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, the head of Finland Sauli Niiniste, the Director General of ISESCO Abulaziz Osma at-Tuijri, as well as the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zanier and CEO of OIC Iyad Amin Madani. In their speeches, they stressed the need to strengthen religious dialogue, which is particularly important in the face of the current growth of threats to global peace and international stability.
Obviously, Astana intends to act decisively, urging the world clergy to dialogue on their land. Especially for the organization of Congresses, the Palace of Peace and Harmony (2006) was erected, a building executed in the form of a Pyramid symbolizing unity.
In 2017, the Peace and Consensus Museum was also opened to collect materials and carry out scientific research in the field of dialogue between cultures and religions. In the same year, a special Astana International Prize was established for contribution to the interreligious dialogue and honorary medal of the Congress, which will be presented for the first time this year.
It can be assumed that Kazakhstan has every reason to conduct events of such high, universal significance. This state of Central Asia is the natural geographical center between the world’s largest religions – Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.
It should be noted that Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, while being on the high positions of the global index of peace. To date, the citizens of this country are representatives of more than 130 ethnic groups, while the number of religious associations has reached more than 3,600, representing 18 different denominations. Since gaining independence, this state strives for perfection and harmonization of relations within the country and calls for this to the world community.
It is important to note that this is not the first peace initiative of Kazakhstan, which finds support in the world. Kazakhstan actively pursues the ideas of peace and harmony, stability and security. For 26 years the Republic has been carrying out peacekeeping initiatives, among which are events of universal importance.
This is a voluntary renunciation of nuclear weapons and the closure of the test site (1991); initiation and co-authorship of the UN Universal Declaration on Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World (2015); proclamation of the Manifesto “Peace. XXI century “(2016), the organization of the peace negotiation process on Syria (” The Astana Process “, 2017) and many others. Obviously, Astana demonstrated that its initiatives are being transformed into effective mechanisms with far-reaching consequences for the whole world.
Returning to the theme of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the question arises: what role is it called to play and what is its actual need?
It is hoped that, along with other mechanisms, this site can contribute to improving the security of today’s world. After all, it is impossible to exaggerate the role of religion in modern society and in many respects its colossal peaceful potential is practically not involved.
In this connection, the importance of interreligious communications is that they should not be directed along the lines of conflict and hostility, but be constructive, dialogical in nature, contributing to the growth of security in the world in general, and its separate corners in particular.
Today we are talking not only about the interaction of religion and its role in social processes, but also about the global dialogue of religious and secular worlds, the dialogue of religion and politics.
The interfaith dialogue format proposed by Astana includes a variety of forms of interaction, from discussions, negotiations and consultations, to the conclusion of agreements and joint coordination of actions on specific issues.
It is important to understand that dialogue is not always an agreement, but always a search for this consent. This means that the Congress of world religious leaders in Astana is not a one-time event, it is certainly a process that must act on an ongoing basis.
Dialogue allows the parties to overcome the “image of the enemy”, to be imbued with confidence in each other’s intentions and actions, and thus lead to harmonization of interreligious and interethnic relations and, ultimately, to smooth out political contradictions.
Thus, we can say that the Astana platform is outside the scope of classical or public diplomacy. President of Kazakhstan N.Nazarbayev in his speech at the previous Vth Congress noted that the site has already become “an important element of global” spiritual diplomacy “. This is also stated by other world leaders.