With acute knowledge of the challenging religious climate in the city of Shymkent, Kazakhstan, LYNC successfully spearheaded the first multi-faith roundtable bringing together local government and religious leadership for safe space conversation. It was a substantial step toward multi-faith and government relations as reported by Mr. Kusack.
The Kazakhstan Embassy in US helped LYNC to set up the meeting and invite the government officials and local imams. The government was represented by Aigul Sarseyeva, Deputy Head of the Department of Internal Policy and Head of the Department of Religious Affairs of Shymkent. There were two local imams and three evangelical pastors, president for AROK Aleksandr Klyushev and three mayor assistances.
The agenda was to learn and discuss the following topics:
– The history of relations between Kazakh Embassy and IRF Roundtable in Washington DC, including previous IRFR delegation visits and the conferences organized by IGE
– Declaration VI Congress of the Leaders of the World and Traditional Religious with the emphasis on religious literacy and tolerance.
– Possible larger roundtable with more diverse religious groups in the middle of 2019. The socially important or educational project that would include government and different religious communities would follow the roundtable.
Mr. Kusack maintained a warmth and openness in the meeting and encouraged participants to do the same. One of the imams even said, “I never had any concerns regarding the Baptist church that is next to my mosque.” Ironically though, he never talks to the pastor of this church which underlined the necessity of our roundtable.
As a result of the roundtable, it was decided to continue the dialogue between Muslims and Christians and find what can be done together, including with the government.