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Pope calls on traditional Kazakh musical instrument to speak of mission of peace



Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 09/13/22

The two strings of the dombra are a call to fashion harmony from two parallel strings.

Religious freedom is the “best channel for civil coexistence,” Pope Francis told Kazakh authorities gathered at the Kazakh Concert Hall in Nur-Sultan on September 13, 2022. In the presence of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, he praised the “healthy secularity” of this Central Asian country that “acknowledges the important and indispensable role of religion and resists the  forms of extremism that disfigure it.”

After being received by the Kazakh head of state in the presidential palace Ak Orda, the 85-year-old Pontiff went to the large concert hall where political, diplomatic and religious representatives of the country were waiting for him.

The Pope thanked the authorities for their invitation to participate in the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, an interreligious summit bringing together some 100 spiritual representatives from around the world, which he described as a place to promote harmony and peace.

I wish to express appreciation for the affirmation of the value of human life embodied by the abolition of the death penalty in the name of each human being’s right to hope. Together with this, it is  important to guarantee freedom of thought, conscience and speech, in order to enable each individual to play his or her unique and equal role in service to society as a whole. 


Drawing on the image of the dombra, a two-stringed instrument characteristic of the region since the Middle Ages, the Pontiff emphasized its vocation as a country of encounter, born, he said, from the painful memory of the gulags where, in the 20th century, many people were deported en masse by the Soviet power.

Kazakhstan is known for its  capacity to keep creating harmony between “two parallel strings” …

For Francis, “in this country we  can hear the ‘notes’ of two souls, Asiatic and European, which give it a permanent ‘mission of linking two continents.'”

Without mentioning the neighboring countries, notably China and Russia, the Pope considered that this situation as a bridge between East and West destined it to play a fundamental role in the mitigation of conflicts.

The Pontiff specifically cited the “senseless and tragic war” caused by the invasion of Ukraine, as well as other ongoing confrontations in the world.

Lamenting the effect of these conflicts on developing countries, the Bishop of Rome called for amplifying the cry of those calling for peace, inviting leaders to infuse multilateral organizations with “a new spirit of Helsinki” in reference to the 1975 conference.

He insisted that this commitment falls to everyone, since, “the problem of one is the problem of all” and therefore requires dialogue with everyone.

Against nuclear armament

While the question of the risk of a nuclear conflict has been raised in the context of the war in Ukraine, the Pontiff welcomed the choice made by Kazakhstan to renounce nuclear weapons.

Although it had nuclear weapons at the time of its independence in 1991, the country voluntarily chose to dismantle this part of its arsenal, a remnant of the Soviet era.

Pope Francis also praised the Central Asian country’s commitment to “energy and environmental” policies and addressed the energy issue, which is central to this resource-rich nation.

On this point, the Pontiff denounced that “integral development is held hostage by widespread injustice, whereby resources are unequally distributed.”

He called on the State and the private sector not to limit economic development to the gains of the few.

Pope Francis then returned to the Apostolic Nunciature where he will sleep for the two nights of his stay in Nour-Soultan. Tomorrow he will participate in the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

The Pontiff has at times given the impression of being tired after the 6.5 hour flight that puts him four hours ahead of Rome. He has shown some difficulty in getting up and sitting down from his wheelchair.

KazakhstanPope Francis
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