The first president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Central Asia, Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra, invited all to show "religion as a way to peace."
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), Bishop Mumbiela invited all, "Let us show that religion is a path to peace."
Bishop Mumbiela talked about the seventh Congress of World and Traditional Religions Leaders, saying, "The goal is that all religions commit to world peace. We need to clean up religion’s image and recover the true sense of religion."
The bishop of Almaty denoted Pope Francis’ sound as "a wake-up call" to "reopen the door to this hope."
Pope Francis will participate in this great event, which will take place from September 14 to 15 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, during his visit to the central Asian country.
The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions began with an initiative by former President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2003.
Almaty’s Bishop told ACN International that the Congress was rooted in the meetings of Pope John Paul II in Assisi in 1986. The representatives of different religions prayed together for peace in those global meetings. Pope John Paul II called them together as a shepherd among shepherds searching for humanity’s good.
The bishop described the intentions of the papal visit to Kazakhstan, "following the sad incidents of violence that Kazakhstan suffered at the beginning of this year, the Pope is coming to tell us that we are not alone, that we need to keep moving forward."
According to Human Right Watch, Kazakhstan faced nationwide anti-government protests and violence in Almaty, which caused dozens of people to be killed, including two children; thousands were injured; and about 10,000 people were detained as of January 11, 2022.
The protest started in Zhanaozen, western Kazakhstan, on January 2, 2022, due to the rising energy prices and rapidly spreading to other cities.
The pope told the president of Kazakhstan that he greatly values all that Kazakhstan has done to work for peace and harmony and that he was coming as a show of support.
Bishop Mumbiela believes that Pope Francis’ visit is more than just a show of support for the government; it extends to the whole country.
The prelate expects this support as "a quest for the identity of this country," and "according to certain values, including religious harmony," due to the 30 years of independence and of Kazakhstan’s Constitution.
Kazakhstan has one percent Catholics among its 19 million people, seventy percent Muslims, and twenty-five percent Christians, primarily Russian Orthodox.
The Bishop of Almaty stated the feelings of minority Catholics in Kazakhstan on the papal visit as a "family celebration."
He said, "For us, the Pope is not only a head of state, but he is also more than just the leader of the Vatican. We are hosting somebody who is very close to us all, a father. The people of this country love the popes, regardless of who they are."
The bishop stated that, by the Grace of God, many are attracted to Catholicism.
As Kazakhstan is a home for migrant people, there are many Polish Catholics in the northern part of the country and many Korean Catholics in the larger cities from past deportations.
At one point, Kazakhstan was a destination for many deportations, from the time of the Tsars until Stalinism, and at one point was home to 11 detention camps.
Due to the limitations of the pope’s health, the pope’s visit to the detention camp is uncertain.
The bishop said, "We were told that the Pope had to keep his movements and meetings to a minimum. What we do know is that he will be meeting with some religious leaders." - With input from Aid to the Church In Need (ACN International)
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