Ethnic/Religious Cleansing Advocate, Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger with Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (who identifies "The Holocaust" as the mystery of iniquity) at July 1-2, 2009 congress for "tolerance and cooperation between the religions" in Astana, Kazakhstan
The Vision of Shared Moral Values
Edda Schlager -Quantura
The third "Congress of World Religions" took place the first two days of July 2009 in Kazakhstan. By appealing for more tolerance and cooperation between the religions, the host country wants to raise its profile as international peacemaker.
"I come from the Middle East and therefore I prefer to sit in a pyramid – a better symbol than the Tower of Babel, which stands for people's inability to understand each other."
With these words Israeli president Shimon Peres voiced his approval of the venue in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana where the "Congress of World Religions" was held on 1 and 2 July .
Over 500 members of all major religions from 35 different countries responded to the invitation, among them representatives of various Christian confessions such as Catholics, Russian-Orthodox and Protestants, along with Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and Zoroastrians.
They all convened at the "Palace of Peace and Reconciliation," a futuristic pyramid designed by star architect Sir Norman Foster for the capital city's new centre.
Incursion of politics into religion
Apparently, not all of the participants understood the call for interreligious dialogue in the same way as the organisers. As Shimon Peres held his opening address, the Iranian delegation demonstratively walked out.
"We've come to hear religious leaders," remarked Mehdi Mostafavi, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation in Iran. "Peres is not a religious leader, but a man of violence."
The Iranian delegation didn't find out until the day before the conference that Shimon Peres would not only attend, but had also been chosen as keynote speaker, and they reacted by threatening not to come. They did however return to the conference hall once Peres had finished his speech.
Despite this confrontation, those attending the conference were unanimous in their assessment that only mutual tolerance, understanding for the positions of the others and an active exchange on the existential problems of humanity could lead to lasting peace.
The dream of a new world order
Kazakhstan hosted the "Congress of World Religions" for the third time, after prior events in 2003 and 2006. With this initiative the country not only wants to enhance its status as international peacemaker amongst the religions – Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev also took advantage of the platform to pitch himself as initiator of a restructuring of the global order.
In his keynote speech, Nazarbayev linked the appeal for mutual understanding he addressed to the religious representatives in attendance with an analysis of the financial crisis: "The current crisis offers a unique opportunity to realise the dream of a new world order," he pointed out. To pass up such a chance would be inexcusable ...
Cardinal Jean-Luis Tauran, president of the Papal Council for Interreligious Dialogue and leader of the Catholic delegation in Astana, reminded the attendees in his greeting address that peace must be based on justice.
"I don't like the word 'tolerance'," Tauran commented. "It's frequently misused. A brother does not want to be tolerated, but to be loved." According to Tauran, Pope Benedict XVI was also following the congress with a great deal of goodwill.
The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, sees the main job of religious leaders as consisting in "strengthening trust, justice and moral values." Metzger admonished the participants not to "misuse religious places to spread terrorism or as weapons depots" ...
In their closing note the participants in the conference spoke out on behalf of "shared moral values" as the only way to avoid interreligious and interconfessional conflicts. They voiced the hope that interreligious dialogue could help to circumvent stereotypes, prejudices and religious disputes ...