A panoramic view of Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan A panoramic view of Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan 

Pope’s presence in Kazakhstan to help ‘map way out of conflicts’

As Pope Francis prepares to take part in an interfaith congress in Kazakhstan, Professor Azza Karam, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, says the Pope can help religious leaders map out ways of resolving and avoiding conflicts.

By Devin Watkins

“Pope Francis is a faith leader whom many others, even outside the Catholic community, tend to listen to and respect very highly.”

The Secretary General of Religions for Peace, Prof. Azza Karam, offered that insight into the Pope’s footprint in interreligious dialogue.

Prof. Karam spoke to Vatican News ahead of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan, on 13-15 September, which will see him participate in the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan.

Nearly 100 delegations are expected to attend from 60 nations, representing Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and other religions.

Pope a ‘spokesperson for peace’

Pope Francis will join religious leaders in seeking to plot a course for humanity’s renewal in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, amidst numerous wars and conflicts across the globe.

“Pope Francis has positioned himself by virtue of his speech and what he symbolizes to be, in some respects, the spokesperson of what peace should look like in people's ordinary lives, but also on the level of government.”

Prof. Karam said the Pope’s various encyclicals and desire for interfaith fraternity have spoken “very powerfully” about how to embody peace and protection of the environment.

His Apostolic Visits have offered a concrete expression of closeness to people who are suffering, she added, pointing to his nearness to refugees and internally displaced peoples.

“He is seen as a religious leader who articulates the moral responsibilities and even clarifies what needs to be done in order to heal communities and to prevent conflict,” said Prof. Karam. “So, his role will continue to be to map out the how and why of resolving and avoiding conflicts, including of living more peacefully with ourselves as people of faith.”

Listen to the full interview

Healing occurs when religions work together

The Congress in Nur-Sultan offers a unique chance for religious leaders to combine their efforts in promoting peace, since no single leader or institutions can do all the work of peace on their own, according to Prof. Karam.

“The reason why this Congress is valuable—and why the work of Religions for Peace over the past 50 years is incomparable—is that we need to work together. Religious institutions, religious leaders, and faith communities have to work together. The together part is where the magic happens and where the healing actually can take place.”

Normalizing interreligious dialogue

Prof. Karam was invited by the Kazakh government to attend the Congress because her organization represents religious leaders in over 90 countries.

She expressed her hopes that the event will help “regularize and normalize” more frequent encounters between religious and faith leaders, in order to “develop a common discourse of collaboration and joint action for peace.”

She compared the Congress to a religious version of the United Nations General Assembly, which provides a forum for governments to meet and advance the common good.

Speaking together for the sake of peace

Religions for Peace, which Prof. Karam heads up, coordinates nearly 100 interreligious councils in as many countries to promote peace and help their local communities, something she believes should happen at a more global level.

“The whole point of this Congress, as with many other gatherings of religious leaders, is to induce, to infuse, to encourage, and to facilitate faith communities coming together, to serve together and to speak together for the sake of peace.”

Picking up the analogy of the UN General Assembly, Prof. Karam noted that the international forum sometimes fails to prevent conflict but that its failure never keeps it from continuing to try and promote dialogue.

In the same way, religious communities and leaders must continue to talk to one another, since they are larger and “far more influential than governments are.”

Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

12 September 2022, 08:30