The meeting was presided by H.E. Maulen Ashimbayev, Speaker of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan and Chairman of the Secretariat. The meeting was attended by 37 delegates from different countries. Delegates include representatives of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism; representatives of International organizations and Government officials. Shri Samir Somaiya represented Hinduism and shared his views on – ‘2023-2033 Development Concept of Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions (click here for the speech).’ The meeting of the Secretariat took place in the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. Shri Samir Somaiya was interviewed by the local and international media on this occasion.
After the meeting of the Secretariat, a special bilateral meeting with Shri Samir Somaiya was called by H.E. Maulen Ashimbayev. Mr Ashimbayev appreciated the contribution of Shri Samir Somaiya and Somaiya Vidyavihar University and expressed his gratitude for the constant support given to the interfaith activities of the Kazakhstan Government. Mr Ashimbayev thanked Shri Samir Somaiya for installing the bust of the famous Kazakh Poet-philosopher Abai Qunanbaiuly on the campus of Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai. Shri Samir Somaiya informed Mr Ashimbayev about the successful organization of the round-table conference organized by Somaiya Vidyavihar University in collaboration with Nazarbayev Center in August 2023. Mr Ashimbayev requested to hold meetings, round-tables, and conferences in collaboration with the Nursultan Nazarbayev Center to promote interfaith values in the future also. On this occasion, Shri Samir Somaiya gifted him the book – ‘Sharing Wisdom’ which is a collection of the speeches and talks of Dr Shantilal Somaiya. The bilateral meeting ended with warm greetings from both sides.
Shri Samir Somaiya also visited the Indian Embassy in Astana and met Dr T V Nagendra Prasad, who recently took charge as an Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan. The meeting was informal and friendly. Shri Samir Somaiya shared his experiences during his visits to Kazakhstan. Dr Nagendra Prasad also shared his views about the helpful and kind nature of Kazakh people and their excellent hospitality.
In the evening, Shri Samir Somaiya was invited for a dinner by Ms Lyazzat Yangaliyeva, a representative of the Baha’i faith who had participated in the round-table organized by Somaiya Vidyavihar University in August 2023. Some other members of the Baha’i faith were also invited for the dinner and were very curious to know about the Indian culture and traditions. During the informal conversations, Shri Samir Somaiya shared the salient features of the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and how his grandfather, Padmabhushan Shri K J Somaiya was influenced by the Gandhian philosophy at a young age.
Dr Rudraksha Sakrikar, faculty of K J Somaiya Institute of Dharma Studies and Secretary of Programme for Interfaith Understanding, SVU attended the meeting of the working group on 10th October at Astana and shared his views on the prospects for the activities of the Secretariat.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, The Republic of Kazakhstan proposed to hold a forum that would gather world spiritual leaders at the same table. The idea emerged only a few weeks after 9/11, during the visit of John Paul II to Kazakhstan which received support from the leaders of most world and traditional religions. The first Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions took place in 2003 in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Dr Shantilal Somaiya was invited to the International Congress of World and Traditional Religions in 2003, 2006 and 2009 as the Leader of Hindu Delegation. Interfaith activities in the Somaiya Vidyavihar campus were developed under the guidance and deep personal involvement of the late Dr Shantilal Somaiya, who was the Vice-President of Somaiya Vidyavihar till he passed away in 2010. Dr Shantilal Somaiya’s contribution to interfaith activities was recognized by the Honorable Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first president of Kazakhstan. At present, Shri Samir Somaiya, Chancellor of Somaiya Vidyavihar University, is the Leader of the Hindu Delegation at this Congress.