The embassy of Uzbekistan in London on 31 May hosted a seminar on the "Uzbekistan’s experience in the achievement of inter-faith harmony" which was organized in partnership with the international organization Three Faith Forum.
According to Uzbekistan Today information agency, the event was attended by around fifty representatives of the Anglican, Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Jewish Community and various Muslim organizations. Academic institutions that participated in the even included the Cambridge and London Universities, King’s College, as well as officials of Britain, media and diplomatic corps in London.
The people who delivered speeches on behalf of the Uzbek side included leading representatives of religious communities, Deputy Chairman of the Uzbek Muslim Board, Sheikh A. Mansurov, Pro-Rector of Tashkent Orthodox Seminary, Reverend S. Statsenko, and Deputy Chairman of the Jewish Religious Community of Tashkent, R.Bensman.
The seminar consisted of two parts: "Uzbekistan – one of the world centers of Islam" and "Inter-faith coexistence in Uzbekistan – history and modernity". During the seminar, the participants had a chance to discuss and express their views on urgent issues of modern civilization.
Delivering a welcome speech, one of the founders of the "Three Faith Forum", Sigmund Sternberg noted that "the maintenance of a constructive dialog among different religions is a sine qua non for providing stability and long-term social development. In this regard, the experience of Uzbekistan, a country with a rich history, is very interesting and useful. The presentations made by the leaders of communities that have lived here since ancient times are a unique opportunity to familiarize ourselves with this country. Strengthening mutual relations among faiths at international level is equally important as in the fight against increased global threats and problems."
Marcus Braybrook, a distinguished British scholar, underlined that in the modern world profound knowledge about each other may help not only prevent conflicts but also to contribute to joint constructive efforts. In his speech, Sheik Abdulaziz Mansurov provided historical and factual data about Islam in Uzbekistan and familiarized the participants with the Republic’s achievements in the sphere of providing religious freedoms and inter-faith rapport. In particular, he noted the efforts of the Government and President Islam Karimov to revive and strengthen spirituality and moral-ethical values in the Uzbek society. In proof of the international recognition of the effective policy, A. Mansurov stated the fact of Tashkent’s having been declared a "Capital of Islamic Culture in 2007." He informed the seminar participants about the wide-scale reconstruction of "Hazrati Imom" complex.
The speech delivered by S. Saksena, a professor of Cambridge University, aroused considerable interest with the participants. The scholar stressed on the uniqueness of the holidays which arose in Bukhara and celebrated by representatives of various confessions.
Sergey Stasenko spoke of the history of Christianity in Central Asia, emphasizing the sense of respect and readiness to help the followers of Christ inherent in the Uzbek nation. He went on to note the contribution made by the Government of Uzbekistan to the restoration and construction of new orthodox temples. S.Statsenko expressed bafflement by the unfounded and biased assessments of the state of freedom of conscience in Uzbekistan. He stated the provision in Uzbekistan of the rights of not only Orthodox Christians but also the followers of other Christian denominations, i.e. Catholicism, Protestantism, Lutheranism, etc. He also noted the undermining character of the proselytizing activities carried out by diverse sectarian currents aimed at depriving people of their spiritual roots.
The speech by Roman Bensman was also dedicated to the significance of spirituality in the Uzbek society. Invoking President Islam Karimov’s words that "the voice of spiritual leaders reaches millions of people", he underscored the religious leaders’ obligation to bring people spirituality and to influence people’s lifestyles, morality and self-awareness through fostering high spirituality. Spiritual vacuum, as is known, tends to get filled with dangerous alien ideas. Referring to the history of the Jewish diaspora, R. Bensman stated the deep roots of tolerance of the Uzbek people.Delivering the final speech, Sir Sidney Shipton, Director of the "Three Faith Forum" noted that the seminar turned out to be useful and productive in terms of both thorough organization by the Uzbek side as well as due to its diverse and useful content. It may be concluded that Uzbekistan can set an example for the rest of the world in the cause of harmonious interaction of faiths and development of the inter-civilization dialog. The event may be described as a practical example of such a dialog which must be continued.