Op-Ed: Central Asian religious matters
Religion plays a huge role for both people and the governments. Religion has determined and still determines the course of development for many countries to this day. There are mono-religious states, such as the Vatican, the Persian Gulf countries, and there are multi-religious states. We also know that at some point in history these states fought for the most prioritized way of development, which ended as a rule, with wars.
Unfortunately, such examples happen in modern times. Religious conflicts have become more dangerous than before. There are many examples; one of the lengthy conflicts (along with the Arab-Israeli conflicts) is the conflict between India and Pakistan. This is not just a confrontation between the different religious orders, but also a conflict in which identity was formed precisely in this religious struggle: the trends of Islam within Pakistan and Hinduism and Islam within India. All these differences, obviously, do not benefit either side. Moreover, conflicts hamper the economic and social development for both countries.
There is a third type of government - secular. They passed through dangerous sections of religious formation, ensuring to their citizens a peaceful development. There are many such countries, and each, had endured own way.
Kazakhstan can boast a smooth, conflict-free formation on religious grounds. Moreover, now, some countries, quite reasonably, try to adopt Kazakhstan’s example of how to build a society where all major religious movements are absolutely peaceful.
Even at the beginning of the formation of the Kazakh statehood, the authorities of the country made a decision in favor of secularism. In such an unstable region as Central Asia, this was almost the most important condition for successful development. The Constitution of Kazakhstan immediately stated that religious associations and citizens are equal before the law. It was unequivocally defined that no religion can be established as a state or compulsory state. This has immediately removed many dangerous and unnecessary questions for the young state, which had all the chances to form on religious grounds.
Today, religion in Kazakhstan is not only one of the factors of interethnic harmony and social stability, but also one of the sources of revival of culture. After all, for the development of culture, it is necessary to take into account the religious values that bear the spiritual and moral potential.
Recently, Kazakhstan held a truly significant event where Polish Catholics presented the nation the Star of Kazakhstan altar. It was made in Poland and consecrated by the Pope of Rome, Francis. There are about a dozen such altars in the world. And Kazakhstan became the second place after Jerusalem, where the altar was sent.
Polish master Mariusz Drapikowski, made the altar elegant-looking and used an image of Jesus Christ with a cross, and an exquisite national Kazakh pattern. Now the altar is located in the church of the village of Ozernoe, in the North-Kazakhstan region. According to an urban legend, in March 1941, after a common prayer of Poles, exiled in that village, suddenly a lake with plentiful of fish appeared. It was a real salvation for people who were dying from hunger. According to the regional governor, more than 40 percent of Catholics throughout the country live in the North Kazakhstan region, and for them such gift is priceless. Now the administration of the region is developing a plan for improving the infrastructure so that pilgrims and ordinary tourists can visit the holy place.
Speaking of the tourists and again about the cultural component of the country's religious heritage. The history of Kazakhstan's culture is rich and inextricably linked with the history of the formation in these parts of various religions. All this is personified in a variety of monuments that are located in the territory of the country and are of great interest not only for scientists and researchers but also for ordinary travelers. Religious objects along with other historical monuments of Kazakhstan, are annually visited by tens of thousands of tourists.
And this is history not only about how different religions can coexist peacefully in the territory of one state, but also that this practice also increases the economic attractiveness of the state.
It is also important to note that scientists and experts, analyzing the example of Kazakhstan, often noted the danger of an independent development of the country's religious experience. But the history of the past 26 years has successfully proved the failure of these reflections. It is tolerance in the religious sphere for Kazakhstan that has become one of the central factors preventing social and political conflicts and building a modern civil society.
And now there is a process of improvement and formation of a new, in many respects unique, confessional space, which will serve as an example to many countries in the conditions of incessant religious confrontation.