Kazakhstan: Social progress depends on commitment to spiritual principles
ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Religious leaders from around the world, including Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, gathered recently at the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Astana, Kazakhstan, to examine the role of religion in contributing to social progress in a post-pandemic world.
Lyazzat Yangaliyeva, member of the country’s Bahá’í Office of External Affairs and one of the representatives of the Bahá’í community at the Congress, says that the forum—held triennially—provides an important opportunity for religious communities to foster greater understanding and cooperation.
“The role of religion is to establish peace,” she says. “Yet, long-standing prejudices, stereotypes that excuse violence against segments of society, and harmful traditions that have been handed down from one generation to another continue to divide people throughout the world.”
Ms. Yangaliyeva explains that despite these challenges there are also clear signs that religion can play a constructive role in creating bonds of trust and cooperation, pointing to the pandemic and recent environmental crises where faith communities have overcome their differences in responding to disasters.
In his remarks at a plenary session of the Congress, Bahá’í International Community Secretary-General, David Rutstein, echoed these sentiments, stating that trustworthiness finds its “highest expression in service to others and to the community as a whole.”
In describing trustworthy leaders, he stated: “They welcome collective decision making and collective action and are motivated by a commitment to justice and the well-being of all of humanity.”
Dr. Rutstein added that social progress depends on a shared vision of the future founded on spiritual principles.
“We must champion the abolition of all forms of prejudice and exclusivity while celebrating the diversity of the human race. We must passionately uphold in our words and our actions the equality of men and women. We must unequivocally advocate for the harmony of science and religion.”
Quoting from Bahá’u’lláh’s writings, Dr. Rutstein continued: “The statement that ‘all people are created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization’ implies that everyone has the responsibility to contribute to the peace, prosperity, and unity of the entire human family.”
Reflecting on the forum, Ms. Yangaliyeva says that the spirit of collaboration among religious leaders in Kazakhstan has only increased since the event.
She states: “This was clearly felt at the gathering convened by the Ministry of Religious Affairs at the Bahá’í National Office in Astana shortly after the conclusion of the Congress, where representatives from diverse faith communities harmoniously consulted together about the future of that forum.”
The Congress, organized by the government of Kazakhstan and hosted by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was attended this year by more than 100 delegations from over 50 countries, representing a diverse range of religions and nationalities.