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Statement of General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Ishmael Noko Print E-mail
ImageMy delegation is honored to participate in the III Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. We brought the greetings of the World Lutheran Federation to His Excellency President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, as well as religious leaders of this country and from around the world gathered at this Congress.

Your Excellency President Nursultan Nazarbayev, we highly appreciate guidance and support that you gave to Congress and two previous, we are grateful to Secretariat of the Congress and its Chairman, Mr. Kasim-Zhomart Tokayev. I also would like to thank in my own name Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kazakhstan, Novgorodova George, for preparation of the Congress. During the meetings held at the Congress, we had opportunities to listen to each other, to destroy hostile views and learn more about the different directions in which divinely inspired actions are taken in our pluralistic society, and by which we learn to read our Holy Scripture from the standpoint of religious reality.

We came to understanding that all religious traditions are based on religious pluralism. It is unlikely that any religion can originate and develop in isolation from others. Faith exert influence on us and enriches us.

Indeed, it is useful to be opened to pluralism. It gives us more opportunities and experience, through which we create our own point of view. We grow in understanding and hope that misconceptions and unfounded fear to other bwill become significantly weaker in the name of peace.
Your Excellency, the challenges of globalization, political manipulation of religion and religious justification of terrorism, that you mentioned in your speech at the II Congress in 2006, so far remains an acute problem, as always. At the same time now when we have gathered at the III Congress, in a global context, these issues have changed much more than we could imagined three years ago. In particular, the global economic crisis brought new stresses and added a new burden to our global settlement. They created new challenges to initiatives that promote the idea of “good or decent society”. The crisis and its aftermaths demonstrated that the world is interdependent, and corruption and greed became identified as the determining factors of the crisis. As religious and community leaders, we are very interested in solving these problems.

We saw another, recent result of development: the new Administration of the United States gradually faced the Muslim world and moved away from the practice of so-called “war on terror”. I believe that this approach provides real opportunities for improving international and inter-religious relations. I also hope that the initiative of President Obama will have an open and positive support of both political and religious leaders from the Muslim world.

I think it is also important to note that inter-religious dialogue and cooperation are possible only providing respect for other beliefs and religious freedom. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, David Miliband, once noted that “there is no single model of the good life”. Many of tensions and conflicts of the past were the result of attempts to impose a single model, based on the unilateral assumption as to the idea of good life. But on the other hand, I think we recognize a common set of fundamental values based on our deepest religious beliefs and universal hope for a peaceful future.

Past experience and present reality of inter-religious relations in Kazakhstan will inevitably impact on the work of our Congress.

Like the Government, religious leaders of Kazakhstan supports the example set by this country to the rest world, and a noble initiative to organize this Congress as well. Accordingly, I hope that religious leaders and communities of Kazakhstan will encourage and support President Nazarbayev and his efforts in this direction.

Your Excellency and dear friends, members of the Congress, when we met at the III Congress here in Astana, we saw the old and new challenges and opportunities opened their doors to us. I hope that together we will take concrete steps to address global challenges facing us. New methods of work developed at the III Congress, in my opinion, have great potential for promotion and quality development. Meetings at working sessions will be particularly useful, help us in discussions and lead to efficient results. We must move from words to deeds in the name of good neighborliness.

The inter-religious action for peace in Africa (IFAP) can serve as an example of this. IFAP is an association of religious leaders and communities, covering the entire spectrum of religious traditions in Africa, it is not based on inter-religious dialogue and interfaith cooperation, but on a practical peace and development in Africa. This organization unites all communities in Africa, in spite of their faith. The World Lutheran Federation initiated this action, now it gained independence, the legal status and continues to work, making a tangible difference in people's lives on the continent which is as rich, as affected by poverty.

Your Excellency, dear friends, the historical importance of this Congress and other such forums will ultimately depend on what reputation they will acquire as to going beyond simply polite conversations and proceeding to honest and decisive debates, based on fundamental beliefs and values, and to practical actions on issues of common concern; and we must move from superficial exchange of views to actions and solving problems that interfere with good neighborliness and mutual relations between our communities. Only when dialogue and cooperation replace violence and oppression, we will be able to make a significant contribution to future peace on our common planet.

Ignoring differences and avoidance of disputes ultimately will not lead to progress. Now, in time of new challenges and opportunities, the matter of particular importance is holding interfaith forums and contributing to establishment of relationships, solid and flexible enough to detect differences that must be identified subjected to debates and challenged in order to achieve mutual understanding, identifying common interests and reaching a compromise. I am convinced that this Congress will contribute to addressing these challenges.

Through meetings and conversations during all three Congresses we reached a certain level of comfort and trust between us. Each forum brings us to deeper relationship with each other and carries the message to the world about the possibilities of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation for peace.

The Government and people of Kazakhstan have already made a significant contribution, gathering us here together, and we should acknowledge and pay tribute to their actions. It is very important, in my opinion, to continue this Congress in order to heal unhealthy memory, gather fruits of confidence that we were able to spread among us, and move from simple messages to serious actions. Then the contribution of the Government of Kazakhstan and its people will pay dividends to the cause of peace.

I look forward to the following discussions and debates. Let us strengthen the work in the name of inter-religious concord and cooperation for peace throughout the world.

Thank you.
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