The current global health crisis is causing many people to reflect deeply on the future of their society. In Kazakhstan last week, the Baha’i community convened an online discussion with academics, government officials, social actors, and religious representatives to explore how their collaborative efforts under the current circumstances are strengthening societal unity.
“During these difficult times we as a nation have had to look beyond the present, setting aside any historical feelings of disunity, to imagine what our country could look like when we emerge from this crisis,” said Timur Chekparbayev, a representative of the country’s Baha’i Office of Public Affairs.
The Office held the discussion as part of its efforts to contribute to the discourse on social cohesion.
“In response to this crisis,” said Serik Tokbolat, a representative of the Baha’i Office of Public Affairs, “we are not giving up hope but are turning our eyes to the possibilities for a degree of social unity we have never seen before.”
Participants considered that one of the signs of a harmonious society is the ability of its citizens, communities, and institutions to act in concert and make decisions for the well-being of all.
“Institutions, both public and government, will need to go deeper into understanding how to make collective decisions and explore related principles,” said Zaira Koishinova, a historian.
“In these circumstances, the importance of mutual trust becomes clear,” remarked Arman Kozhakhmetov, a member of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, “Promoting trust requires open and clear decision-making. When people see that mistakes are recognized and corrected, trust is born and issues can quickly be solved.”
Offering a perspective from the Hindu community, Askhat Adilbayev said that “people are increasingly talking about the spiritual and finding many answers in religious scriptures. Trust is born in faith. We have an opportunity before us to become closer to the sublime spiritual values that foster our development.”
Participants shared a strong sentiment that the past does not have to define the future.
“Governments, organizations, and communities are building the way forward together. Many who previously interacted as rivals are now extending a helping hand to one another,” said Karlygash Kalilakhanova, of the N. Nazarbayev Center for the Development of Inter-religious Dialogue.
Reflecting on the event, Lyazzat Yangaliyeva, member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Kazakhstan, says that “an idea that has been central to the organization of public life and considered as the engine of progress is competition. But it’s now becoming clear to many that this idea is outdated. Overcoming the difficulties we face today requires high degrees of unity and the participation of all.”