Pope Francis attended the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional religions in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, with 80 other faith leaders on September 13-15. Kazakhstan is a former Soviet republic in Central Asia. The other faith leaders were representing various strains of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. He was quoted as saying:
We also need others, all others: our Christian sisters and brothers of other confessions, those who hold other religious beliefs than our own, all men and women of goodwill.
He praised the “powerful sense of solidarity” that resulted from the pandemic but warned that we must not squander it. Here he said religions are “called to be present on the front lines, as promoters of unity amid the grave challenges that risk dividing our human family even further.”
It is up to us, who believe in the Divine, to help our brothers and sisters at the present time not to forget our vulnerability…In a word, the sense of shared vulnerability that emerged during the pandemic should motivate us to move forward, not as we did before, but now with greater humility and foresight.
The Pope then added that believers are “called to care” for humanity and become “artisans of communion, witnesses of a cooperation that transcends the confines of our community, ethnic, national and religious affiliations.” He said we begin by listening to the poor, the neglected, the helpless show “suffer in silence and general disregard.”
On the plane returning he said: “The path of interreligious dialogue is a shared path to peace and for peace; as such, it is necessary and irrevocable.”
“Interreligious dialogue “, he said, “is no longer merely something expedient: it is an urgent-needed and incomparable service to humanity, to the praise and glory of the Creator of all.”
And he said the summit in Kazakhstan was a “providential” opportunity to “reaffirm the authentic and inalienable essence of religion” at a time of widespread “pseudo-religious terrorism, extremism, radicalism, and nationalism, dressed up in religious garb.”
To work for a society marked by the respectful coexistence of religious, (and) ethnic and cultural differences is the best way to enhance the distinctive features of each, to bring people together while respecting their diversity, and to promote their loftiest aspirations without compromising their vitality.
The declaration at end of this 7th Congress stated: “We call upon world leaders to abandon all aggressive and destructive rhetoric which leads to destabilization of the world, and to cease from conflict and bloodshed in all corners of our world.”
We are all in the same boat … Laudato Si’ in 2015 and Fratelli Tutti in 2020 spelt this out beautifully.
The photo of Pope Francis, who is not so mobile these days, travelling to Kazakhstan to sit and talk with all these religious leaders speaks volumes of his commitment to peace and harmony.
This event hardly received hardly any international media coverage, and some of the above quotes are from Robert Mickens, “Francis continues his push for a humbler, more open Church”, La Croix International, 17 September 2022.