III Congress of World and Traditional Religions
Lutheran world leader urges end to Islamophobia at Astana meeting
By Anli Serfontein
Astana, Kazakhstan, 2 July (ENI)--Renounce Islamophobia,
the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, the Rev. Ishmael Noko,
has urged world religious leaders at an inter religious congress in Kazakhstan.
Noko, a Zimbabwean, commended U.S. President Barrack
Obama for reaching out to Muslim communities and moving away from the language
of the "war against terror".
"President Obama's overtures, while addressed to the
Muslim world, also challenge other religious communities to reject
Islamophobia," said Noko in the Kazakhstan capital.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Third
Congress of leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Astana, Kazakhstan,
on 1 July. The two-day event was attended by leaders of the world's main
It included 77 delegations from 35 countries. The
congress adopted an appeal calling on religious and political leaders, public
figures and the mass media to "counteract the manipulation of religions or
religious differences for political ends so as to preserve the unity of the
society in the respect for legitimate diversity".
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches,
the Rev. Samuel Kobia, said, "The young people of today are not as
burdened as we are with the differences they see in each other. In a more
globalised society and in communities which are much more pluralistic than when
we grew up, they are getting to know people from different religions already
from a young age."
Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev opened the
conference. The Kazakhstan leader has established an inter-religious dialogue
forum in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, surrounded by states
that are mostly Muslim, and where there is limited religious freedom.
He said that inter-confessional dialogue is the most
important instrument to counter religiously inspired violence.
Nazarbayev called on participants to unite in efforts to
create a non-nuclear world. Resource-rich Kazakhstan is a former nuclear
testing ground of the old Soviet Union, which disposed of its nuclear arsenal
18 years ago.
President Shimon Peres of Israel hailed the recent Arab
peace plan for the Middle East brokered by Saudi King Abdallah. Peres and the
secretary general of the Muslim World League and the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar,
Mohammed Sayed Tantaway, had conciliatory messages.
"We should separate religion from terror. This
should be a common effort by all believers, regardless of faith, creed or
gender," Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Peres told the gathering. He joined
President Nazarbayev's call for the abandoning of nuclear weapons.
The secretary general of the Muslim World League,
Abdullah bin Abdul Mohsin Al-Turki, expressed the hope that the meeting will
"We should go forth addressing the world whose
organisations represent the different religious strata," said Al-Turki.
"Our goals should be to protect the efforts of the religious institutions
and preserve them from falling prey or tools in the hands of unscrupulous
people using them for personal ends, means of financial gains, and wicked thoughts
that feed the spirit of transgression, thus justifying acts of violence and
The Christian delegation included Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans and Armenian Apostolic churches.