4TH ANNUAL INTERFAITH DINNER AND DIALOGUE FOR U.S. RELIGIOUS LEADERSPosted on February 7th, 2012 No comments
I had honor and privilege to host more the 30 US religious leaders at the 4th Annual Interfaith Dinner at the Kazakhstan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations chancery building on January 11, 2012. It was a joint enterprise with Kazakhstan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Byrganym Aitimova and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.
The Interfaith Dinner has become a tradition to foster engagement between the secular but predominantly Muslim Kazakhstan and distinguished representatives of American religious groups. This trust in dialogue and tolerance helped Kazakhstan and the United States to establish a solid foundation for active engagement on issues of particular concern for the Obama Administration in its efforts to establish a workable framework to overcome misunderstandings between America and the Muslim world.
This is part of a trend, as you all know. Kazakhstan did a lot during its chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010 to promote tolerance. And today, we are doing the same with the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which we chair. I think it’s Kazakhstan’s destiny to serve as a “bridge-builder” between the West and the Muslim World, evidenced by our history with the Great Silk Road.
As I mentioned above, more than 30 participants attended the Interfaith Dinner including U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal, known American spiritual leader Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, one of the leading rabbis of America Marc Schneier, Executive Director and Co-Founder, American Society For Muslim Advancement Daisy Khan, Religions for Peace Secretary General William F. Vendley, Head of Orthodox Church in America the Very Reverend Leonid Kishkovsky and others.
Ambassador Hannah Rosenthal in her statement recognized the role of Kazakhstan in promoting international interreligious dialogue. She praised Kazakhstan’s role in enhancing tolerance not only in the county, but also on the world stage as “the founder of the Congress on World and Traditional Religions, as 2010 Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and as 2011 Chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.”
Other participants, including Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Rabbi Marc Schneier, Religions for Peace Secretary General William F. Vendley, the Very Reverend Leonid Kishkovsky of Orthodox Church in America, and Executive Director and Co-Founder of “American Society For Muslim Advancement” Daisy Khan expressed their viewpoints that Kazakhstan should keep up working its achievements during its chairmanships in the OSCE and the OIC. According to them, Kazakhstan should enhance its position as a moderate Muslim nation that recognizes the important role of religion in the society. Its voice in support of tolerance in the region and internationally should gain even more weight.
Discussions at the dinner generated a number of valuable proposals. The overarching suggestions were to create action plans regarding deeply held and widely shared cares and concerns and to focus on peace and prosperity in Afghanistan as an important step toward regional comity.
We have all also agreed to capitalize on Kazakhstan’s valuable multicultural experience by convening a regional council of religious leaders that can address the role of religion in the region. We were of the same opinion that multiculturalism should be viewed not as a problem, but as an opportunity to unite within diversity.
One more important item: we hoped to draw on and promote women’s capacity to network. Again, Kazakhstan where women enjoy equal rights, can share its experience and play a positive role in women empowerment.
Peace in the country is better ensured, if the future leaders are trained at young ages and involved in mobilizing their communities. To that end, it was suggested that a regional conference for youth leaders should be supported, where they can get together and exchange experience. I think that will create a lot of progress, especially among our future – the young people we care so much about.
I enjoyed the frank and candid discussions with the spiritual leaders from various backgrounds who with their presence at one event demonstrated that we all share commonalities and should focus on unity, rather than dividing lines. It is my sincere hope that their ideas and recommendations will be implemented during and as an aftermath of the 4th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Astana on May 29-30. I look forward to meeting the learned and inspirational leaders next year around the same period.
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