20th Anniversary of the Congress of World and Traditional Religions in Kazakhstan


11th October 2023

Dear Friends,

Last week, I was invited to Astana, Kazakhstan to speak at the 20th Anniversary of the Congress of World and Traditional Religions. Somaiya Vidyavihar (under the leadership of my late father Dr. S. K. Somaiya) has been working in the field of inter-faith dialogue since the 1980s and we have been working with Kazakhstan all these past 20 years of their Congress. I was invited to speak on behalf of Hinduism.

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation - shaped like a Pyramid where the conference was held.  Picture of me with our faculty Dr. Rudraksha Sakrikar and our Liason - Aisana Kakharman

It was an honour to meet the Chairman of the Senate, His Excellency Maulen Ashimbayev, and His Excellency Bulat Sarsenbayev - Chairman of the N. Nazarbayev Board for Development of Interfaith and Inter-Civilization Dialogue. I thank The Republic of Kazakhstan and President of Kazakhstan, His Excellency Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for their continuing commitment to interfaith dialogue.

Picture of all of us who participated in the dialogue

The topic was building a 'Building a Fair and Peaceful World'. This theme was also reflected in 'वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्- 'One Family, One Earth, One Future' which was chosen as the theme of the G20 under the Presidency of India and led by our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. The topic of 'Building a Fair and Peaceful World' has been relevant at all times and also very much in the times we live in. Praying for Peace in the World.

Picture of me with His Excellency Bulat Sarsenbayev - with the Ganesh that we gifted them a few years ago - and which stands in the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation.

Somaiya Vidyavihar has been undertaking interfaith dialogues since the 1980s.  My father, Dr. Shantilal K Somaiya was an active believer that to work towards a better world it is important to engage in dialogue (संवाद) with people from different walks of life, different beliefs, and different faiths.  He also believed that religions have survived millennia, and that there is much to learn from their teachings.

I was amazed at the hospitality that they showed me.  I was received at the Astana Airport by Zhanna Assanova - Member of Parliament, and also seen off by her when I left, even though my flight left in the middle of the night at 3:15 am.  When I mentioned to her that she need not have taken the trouble, she said that when I had taken the trouble to come all the way, how could I say that it was trouble for her to come and say good bye.

Azat Serikbossyn (Deputy Head of Mission of Kazakhstan in New Delhi - who accompanied us on the trip), myself, Senator Zhanna Assanova (Member of Parliament) who came to see us off, and Rudrakhs Sakrikar

The link to my talk is at


I give the text of my talk below:

Kazakhstan has for centuries been an example of tolerance and spiritual diversity.  Positioned on the silk road, Kazakhstan has been at the crossroads of diverse traditions.  Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and other spiritual traditions have coexisted.

We meet today to reaffirm our shared commitment to work towards building a fair and peaceful world.  In the Rig Veda, there is a beautiful verse:

संगच्छध्वं संवदध्वं 

सं वो मनांसि जानताम्

समानि व आकूति: समाना हृदयानि व: |

समानमस्तु वो मनो यथा व: सुसहासति ||   ऋग्वेद

“Go together; speak with one another; 

Let your minds be of one accord... 

May your aim be common, 

your assembly common; common the mind, and the 

thoughts united... Common be your aim, and your 

hearts integrated; your mind be one so that all may happily live together.” 

We are here, assembled together, we are in dialogue with one another.  We are of one mind.  Our aims are common.  We are here to speak with each other on how to build a Fair and Peaceful world.  

The dialogue that we have is one based on mutual respect and understanding.  This dialogue must be meaningful and purposeful.  Today, the world is grappling with multiple challenges.  The list below is an illustrative (and certainly not an exhaustive list) of these challenges:   

  1. Inequalities in access to Health, Nutrition, Housing, Education, Finance and Opportunity.
  2. Inequalities within communities (Gender for example)
  3. Climate Change, Sustainability and loss of Nature and Biodiversity
  4. Poverty
  5. Terrorism & Conflict
  6. Individual vs the Community (at an individual or at a national level)

The Honourable Prime Minister of India - Shri Narendra Modi gave voice to addressing these issues in India’s leadership of the G20.  The Delhi Declaration articulated the vision of One Planet, One future, One family.  The Declaration laid out goals of financial inclusion, gender equity, digital public infrastructure and more.  All working towards a more Just and peaceful world.

The motto of One Planet, One future, One family also finds its roots in Hindu scripture - 

अयं निजः परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम्!! उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् !!

‘This is mine and that is not’ is the thinking of narrow minded people.  For the large hearted - the world is a family.’  And so One Planet, One future, One Family

The choice of this motto showed that faith is important.  Our beliefs, our traditions, and our spiritual inspirations are important.  Timeless sayings have continuing relevance.  And that service to humanity is the greatest religion.

Our value systems must remain firm in a turbulent world.  In a changing world.  Compassion, Truth, Forgiveness, Respect, Honesty and Contentment and Love must underpin our lives and relationships.  The world around will change us, but it must not take us away from the fundamental values that make us human. 

We meet periodically in Kazakhstan to find strength in our shared experiences, solutions in our shared response to challenges, and to chart out a path forward to address the challenges facing the world today.  

The challenges facing us are great, the urgency even greater.  

I would like to thank the Republic of Kazakhstan and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for their continued commitment to humanity, to articulate a path forward for the Congress as we continue to meet to build peace and harmony in the world.

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