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2nd Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions Convenes in Kazakhstan

2nd Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions Convenes in Kazakhstan
Political Conflicts No Longer Solvable Exclusively on the Political Level

By Luther World Information

Via World Faith News

ASTANA, Kazakhstan/GENEVA, 14 September 2006 (LWI) - "Political conflicts can no longer be solved exclusively on the political level," Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev remarked in his opening speech at the Second Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. The two-day congress, which took place in the country’s capital, Astana, began 12 September and was attended by some 180 participants. Religious movements and their leaders are now a decisive factor in maintaining peace and security in the world, he stated.

Expressing his pleasure in meeting with the leaders of world and traditiona l religions gathered at the congress, the Kazakh president said their most important task was to call on the people of the world to strive for peace, compassion and harmony. He suggested that the United Nations declare an "International Year of Religious and Cultural Tolerance."

The congress brought the leaders together in 27 delegations from 20 countries to debate a common Declaration on Religion, Society and International Security, discussing principles of inter-religious dialogue, religious freedom and the role of religious leaders in enhancing internatio nal security.

The delegations represented the world’s major religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Taoism, as well as representatives of the UN, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), European Parliament, and other institutions .

Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), among attendees, had also taken part in the first such congress held in September 2003. At this second meeting, he expressed his belief that it was essential that: "faith community leaders must themselves define the agenda for their interfaith relationships, rather than allowing political interests to dictate the agenda. An example is the current predominance of the issue of terrorism." Noko, who also initiated the "Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa" process, underscored that "religious leaders must recognize their own responsibility," and understand "the importance of not abrogating this responsibility to governments alone."

The congress took place at the "Palace of Peace and Accord," also known as the "Peace Pyramid," which was built between 2004 and 2006 according to designs by the renowned British architect, Norman Foster. President Nazarbayev plans to create a center for religious studies at the site.

As well as Noko, the LWF delegation included Bishop Yuri Novgorodov of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Kazakhstan (ELCRK), LWF Area Secretary for Asia, Rev. Dr Ginda Harahap, Dutch journalist Mr Praxedis Bouwman, and Ms Regina Karasch, public relations officer of the LWF National Committee in Germany. After the congress, the delegation’s schedule includes an invitation from Bishop Novgorodov to visit several ELCRK congregations in Astana and Kokshetau.

(Contributed by LWI correspondent Ms Regina Karasch, LWF National Committee in Germany, Main Board for Church Cooperation and World Service, Stuttgart, Germany.)

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