As a two-day conference of major religions ended in Kazakhstan, key leaders of 18 faiths agreed to meet regularly under the banner “Congress of World and Traditional Religions.”
One delegate hoped the group would translate into a “United Nations of Religions.” Speeches touched on how to address differences between religions, the need for more dialogue, and the issue of terrorism.
The secretary-general of the Muslim World League, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Turki, from Saudi Arabia, said the Koran prohibits any acts of violence.
He told the delegates, “Islam is against all killing that is without a just cause. We cannot accept those who say that Islam is a religion that kills or harms others.” Sheikh Al-Turki said Muslims also oppose those who use religion for political purposes.
The senior Jewish representative at the conference was Jonah Metzger, the chief rabbi of Israel. He spoke of the need for greater understanding between faiths, directing his remarks to the delegations from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt, who were sitting just a short distance away.
Metzger invited all of those present to come to Jerusalem, which he called by its Islamic name of “Al-Quds.” He told the conference that the invitation applied to everyone, even those with whom Israel does not have diplomatic relations.
During the conference there were private meetings between delegates from the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, which have spiritual differences going back centuries as well as more recent disputes over property in the former Soviet Union.
Hindus from India also had a chance to talk with their historical Muslim adversaries from Pakistan.
Representatives of other faiths at the congress included Taoists and Buddhists from China, and a Shinto delegation from Japan.
The congress was chaired by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who initiated the idea of holding the meeting in Kazakhstan’s new capital city, Astana.
The delegations agreed that Kazakhstan would be the appropriate place for a new, permanent organization to allow for more dialogue between peoples of all religions. Nazarbayev offered to provide a new building.