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International Religious Forum Opens In Astana

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (file photo) (epa) September 12, 2006 -- A three-day forum on religious freedom and tolerance started today in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

The event brings together more than 40 national delegations and as many international spiritual leaders.

Guests include the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, Abdullah Ibn Abdul Muhsin Atturki; the leader of India's Amiat-e Shahab-e Islam organization, Salman al-Husaini al-Nadvi; Israeli chief Rabbi Yona Metzger; and the Anglican bishop of Croydon in Britain, Reverend Nicholas Baines.

Addressing the forum, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev suggested that the United Nations institutes a "year of cultural and religious tolerance."

He also said that Kazakhstan has been demonstrating its commitment to religious tolerance ever since it gained independence in 1991.

But rights groups say this tolerance applies only to traditional religions. They point to the continuous harassment of nontraditional religious groups, such as the Hare Krishna or the Islamic Tablighi Jamaat revivalist group.


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