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 religions.

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 foster understanding.

"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 terrorism.”

The Christian delegation included Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans  and Armenian Apostolic churches.

Islam sent delegations from 15 countries. Other faiths represented were: Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. [523 words]