Kazakh minister invites chief rabbis to inter-religious conference with Iran

Lawmaker tells 'Post' role of religious leaders is to build peace based on tolerance, mutual respect.

kazakh guy and metzger 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
kazakh guy and metzger 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A senior Kazakh minister has invited Israel's chief rabbis to participate in an inter-religious conference in Kazakhstan this summer with Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world, including from Iran. The invitation to participate in the third conference of "World Leaders of Traditional Religions," which will take place in July, was presented to Israel's two chief rabbis by the Chairman of Kazakhstan's parliamentary Committee on International Relations Defense and Security, Kuanysh Sultanov, during a four-day visit to Israel. The gathering, which has been held twice in the past and has drawn several hundred people, has included religious leaders from both Iran and Syria, who plan to attend this year's conference as well. "The role of religious leaders is to build peace based on tolerance and mutual respect," Sultanov said Thursday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. The ninth largest country in the world with a territory the size of Western Europe, Kazakhstan is ethnically and culturally diverse, in part due to mass deportations of many ethnic groups to the huge Eurasian country during Stalin's rule. Kazakhstan declared itself an independent country on December 16, 1991, the last Soviet republic to do so. Although Islam is the primary religion, followed by Orthodox Christianity, a moderate Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion, with a whopping 46 different religious beliefs registered in the country of 16 million, including about 40,000 Jews. 'Unfortunately many in the West confuse our country with Afghanistan," he said. On his second visit to Israel, the 63-year-old Kazakh parliamentarian, who also heads the Israeli-Kazakh partnership committee, said that Kazakhstan was opposed to nuclear proliferation all over the world, and not only in neighboring Iran, with which Kazakhstan has friendly political and economic relations. "We support the resolution of the UN regarding Iran's nuclear program," he said tersely. "Taking into account that Iran is a member of the international community, it should respect the opinion of the international community." "We would like to stress that regarding nuclear proliferation we are concerned not only about Iran but about all countries in the world," he added. The Islamic Republic has sought to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an intergovernmental mutual-security organization, previously known as the Shanghai Five, which was founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Sultanov said that a decision on the Iranian request, which is still being deliberated, will only be made by consensus of the six-country group, and is not a matter for Kazakhstan alone to decide.