The Republic of Kazakhstan will host a conference in Jerusalem next week, seeking to bring together religious leaders under one roof in the Holy Land.
The event is part of the Central Asian country’s Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, an interreligious forum held in Kazakhstan every three years for the past two decades.
Religious leaders from many faiths are expected at the Israeli forum, including the country’s chief rabbis, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem and representatives from the Muslim, Druze and Baha’i communities in Israel, along with prominent public political and academic officials.
“We believe that harnessing the collective efforts of religious leaders around the globe will serve to counter current challenges to world peace, as well as advance trust and progress among different nations and communities,” Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Israel and Cyprus Satybaldy Burshakov said on Monday.
Mäulen Äşimbaev, the chairman of the Kazakhstani Senate and head of the Secretariat of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, will be the keynote speaker at the roundtable conference.
Three decades of ties
Israel and Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations more than three decades ago, after the fall of the Soviet Union, with growing political and economic ties forged in recent years.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Kazakhstan in 2016 and met with then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in the first such visit by an Israeli premier to the former Soviet republic.
The current president of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, is expected to visit Jerusalem in the future, Burshakov said.
Ninth largest in the world
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 ethnic groups to the country during Stalin’s rule.
Although Islam is the primary religion, followed by Russian Orthodox Christianity, the moderate nation allows freedom of religion, with 18 denominations registered in the country of 19 million, including about 3,000 Jews.
Israeli and Central Asia
The interfaith conference comes at a time when Israel’s ties are expanding throughout Central Asia, including in Turkmenistan, as well as with Azerbaijan in the Caucasus.
Iran has publicly fumed about and privately tried to cancel Kazakhstan’s growing relationship with Israel, to no avail.