Astana’s religious confab strikes the right tone

In the heart of Eurasia, Kazakhstan, September 13-15, the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a triennial event held in Astana since 2003, called on secular and religious leaders around the world to return to the reason and to see that the common values ​​of humanity, universal and immutable, must serve as the starting point for constructive dialogue in a world torn by war and conflict.

At this time of great peril when the drums of war are resounding across the world, the Astana Congress stressed that diplomats must redouble their efforts on the language of reconciliation and compromise before engaging in conflict preventable. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream media ignored the Astana Congress, even though the highest leaders of the religious world attended.

Pope Francis summed up the Astana Congress in an interview on the way back to Rome, always calling for dialogue, “an outstretched hand, always! Otherwise, we are closing the only reasonable door to peace. In other words, to claim that international or inter-civilizational conflicts are resolved only by force is not only short-sighted, but the cause of immense suffering. Humanity can do better.

No easy task

The Astana Congress represented a healthy dose of optimism in a world dominated by pessimism and the pursuit of self-interest. It was more than incense and smells and bells; he fomented a concrete commitment between civilizations that sometimes clashed.

Before the prophets of doom outright dismiss the efforts of religious leaders for peace as hopelessly naive – as today’s followers of Thucydides, Machiavelli and Mackinder tend to believe – they should read the speeches of Pope Francis, Yitzhak Yosef, the great Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, and Metropolitan Anthony of the Russian Orthodox Church, to understand that there is room for dialogue between civilizations.

Patient dialogue before warmongering

Media and diplomats should take inspiration from Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, congress host and head of state of the ninth largest country in the world:

“Unfortunately, tension, mutual mistrust and even hostility are returning to international relations. What can we rely on to counter today’s challenges? History offers only one answer: goodwill, dialogue and cooperation. There are no other guarantees of success. Threats, sanctions and the use of force do not solve the problems. [W]We must turn to humanist ideals, the main repositories of which are, of course, traditional religions.

Declaration of the Astana Congress

To paraphrase the main messages of the Astana Congress Declaration:

  1. The value system that should guide diplomatic engagement and public policy should not be based on a “will to power” philosophy, but rather on ethical norms (permanent spiritual values) rooted in human nature from all eternity, c that is to say, because human beings are rational and have human dignity, dialogue and compromise are possible. Thus, conflict is not inevitable.
  2. Any public policy, any economic development plan or any narrowly targeted diplomatic initiative, that is to say ignoring (by design or omission) the dignity of the human person, is doomed to undermine the common good and peace. . The view that maximizing self-interest (in a zero-sum environment) defines “good moral behavior”, regardless of the cost to others, is fundamentally flawed and can lead to suffering and displacement. of a large number of people. History is clear on this point. We have to find another way.
  3. It is of the utmost importance that world leaders pay special attention to the “institution of the family”. In other words, the great religions of the world oppose, not for theological reasons but rather philosophical and scientific ones, the introduction of erroneous ideas which alter the meaning of the family as it is understood during millennia.
  4. The prevailing “culture of death” mentality in modern society, which is aggressively promoted from the highest international circles, works against unity and brotherhood and fuels wars, economic dissolution, the collapse of society and mass and involuntary migration. The “culture of life” is always better than “the culture of death”.
  5. The meanings of “religion” and “political religion” are antonyms and should not be confused. While the former has built civilizations over the centuries, and usually, but not always, advocated peace, the latter’s entire modus operandi is the instrumentalization of religion. Highly partisan, polarizing and sometimes violent, it aims to achieve political power and often pursues policies that are harmful to the person, family and society.
  6. “Extremism, radicalism, terrorism and all other forms of violence and war, whatever their motives and objectives, have nothing to do with genuine religion and must be rejected in the strongest possible terms. ” Thus, “political and public figures, journalists and bloggers, [should refrain from identifying] extremism and terrorism with a nation or a religion or the use of religions for political purposes”.

Much more is contained in the Declaration of the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. (See also the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed in 2019 by Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayeb as well as the Makkah Declaration adopted in Makkah in May 2019.)

Introspection, fraternity, compassion

Pope Francis said: “I have come to echo the call of all those who cry out for peace, which is the essential path of development for our globalized world”. Is anyone listening, the pope asks, or is it just too hard to extinguish the hate or to see and experience the suffering of others? Religious leaders in Astana said it was high time for deep personal introspection and compassion, i.e. “Frater qui adiuvatur a fratre quasi civitas firma(Brother helped by brother is a fortress).

President Tokayev, in his closing remarks, stressed that the declaration of the Astana Congress must “serve as a guide for governments, political leaders and international organizations”, whose responsibility is to “collectively condemn both the power politics” and “hate speech”, which contribute to the mutual alienation of nations, the erosion of states and the deterioration of international relations.

Let’s hope political leaders, diplomats and the mainstream media pay heed to these words and those of the religious leaders who have come to Astana.

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