Astana, June 10 (IANS) Religious and political leaders on Wednesday gathered at Kazakhstan’s iconic Palace of Peace and Reconciliation in the capital Astana for a two-day congress during which they will seek common ground against the evils and ills currently plaguing the planet.
“Bringing the religious community and political leaders of the world together to discuss ways of putting an end to the many conflicts is the main reason for this congress,” explained Kazakh Senate spokesman Kassym Jomart Tokayev at the start of the Fifth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.
The opening day of the gathering of 80 delegations from 42 countries was chaired by Kazakhstan President Nur Sultan Nazarbayev, Efe news agency reported.
In a clear reference to the Islamic State Sunni radical group, Nazarbayev stressed “the dangers of extremism and acts of violence by terrorist groups who take refuge in religion”.
The president said that all religions preach “patience, peace, tolerance… and Islam is one of the most tolerant religions”.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a rundown of the main conflicts facing society and concluded with this solution: “We live in a time when we need dialogue more than ever.”
Ban called on “the international community to make an effort to maintain a dialogue that promotes the values of “reconciliation and mutual respect”.
“We are the first generation that can eliminate global poverty and we are the last generation that can solve the problem of global warming,” he added.
Ban said humanity faced “high-risk” problems, citing “social conflicts, terrorism and drug trafficking”, among others.
“In these times, the religious community can serve to bind the basis of human values, to unite all communities and create the necessary space for peace.”
During Wednesday’s session, the participants set the agenda for talks between the religious community and politicians in search of peace.
The participants included representatives of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shintoism.
The religious and political leaders are also due to discuss the role of religion among the youth, and dialogue based on mutual respect between leaders and their followers.
Among those attending the congress are King Abdullah II of Jordan, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and senior representatives from Unesco and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).