Religion forms the core of each culture and civilization while dialogue, including interfaith dialogue, leads to awareness that all people inhabit one and the same planet and that they all have the same merits despite their racial, ethnic and gender differences, religious affiliation and the choice of ideology. All people have the same rights and responsibilities and share certain values.
Kazakhstan is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and Islamic, Christian and Buddhist cultures. Historically, the territory of Kazakhstan has been, for centuries, the meeting place of different religions and civilizations. The population of our country is made up of representatives of more than 130 ethnic groups and 46 religious denominations. We in Kazakhstan believe that the concepts of interfaith and interethnic accord and dialogue cannot be considered in isolation. Without harmony in interethnic relations one cannot expect serious dividends from the policy of enhancement of interfaith dialogue.
It is for this reason that preservation of interfaith and interethnic accord and tolerance is one of the priorities of our government's policy. Since gaining its independence, Kazakhstan has been carrying out a balanced state policy in the area of interfaith relations. Kazakhstan is a secular state where religion is separated from the state. Yet the country has created conditions for spiritual revival and has guaranteed constitutional freedoms of worship and religion.
The initiative of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan A. Nazarbayev to convene in Astana, our capital, a Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions has become Kazakhstan's tangible contribution to interfaith and intercultural understanding, harmony and cooperation as a mechanism to maintain regional and global stability.
The first Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions was held in Astana in September 2003 and enjoyed support of representatives of practically all world and traditional religions.
That event in Kazakhstan, in fact, provided a forum for religious leaders who discussed the ways to use the spiritual and moral potential of world religions to prevent international conflicts and to address global threats, xenophobia and intolerance.
The first Congress adopted a Declaration proclaiming that its participants were prepared to make every effort not to allow the use of religious differences as an instrument of hatred and discord, in order to save mankind from a global conflict of religions and cultures. The Declaration of the Congress was circulated as an official document of the fifty-eight session of the United Nations General Assembly (A/58/390-S/2003/916).
The second Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions will take place in Astana in September of 2006. The Congress secretariat has already approved its concept and theme, which is "Religion, Society and International Security". The secretariat has also developed basic principles of interfaith dialogue - integrity, tolerance, humility and mutual understanding. The purpose of that dialogue should not be demonstration of superiority of one religion over the other or elimination of differences between religions.
Work is under way to institutionalize the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. The objective is for the Congress to function as a permanent international organization, which implements decisions taken by influential spiritual leaders.
The city of Astana has launched a major construction project - a Palace of Peace and Accord. That structure will house the headquarters of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, an Institute of Civilizations and a large theological library for global religious studies.
United Nations General Assembly has adopted a number of important resolutions promoting understanding, harmony and cooperation between religions and cultures. Kazakhstan became co-sponsor of UN Resolutions: Promotion of interreligious dialogue and cooperation for peace (A/60/L.4/Rev.1), which reflect the desire on the part of the community of nations to promote peace, tranquility, security and development on this planet through dialogue between religions, cultures and civilizations. Kazakhstan co-sponsored the Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace "Enhancing Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation Towards Peace in the Twenty-first Century", that was held at the UN Headquarters in New York on June 22, 2005 (Report of the Convening group of the Conference (A/60/269). Kazakhstan believes that strengthening ties between the UN and various sectors of civil society, including religious non-governmental organizations, is very important for promotion inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.
We supported the initiative to establish a consultative group consisting of representatives of the UN member-countries, organizations of the UN and NGOs to follow-up on the suggestions and recommendations of the Conference and actively participate in its work.
During the UN Summit in New York Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan H.E. Mr. Kassymzhomart Tokaev participated at an informal meeting of leaders on "Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation For Peace" (statement).