Nostra Aetate Foundation student seeks to nurture Christian-Muslim relations in her home country of Kazakhstan
12 April 2022
Ms. Aigerim Dyussenova, Nostra Aetate Foundation’s newest student, desires to strengthen bonds between Christians and Muslims in her home country, Kazakhstan. Herself a follower of Islam, Ms. Dyussenova appreciates the fraternal spirit of her life in Rome as she becomes friends with Christian students from various parts of the world. “During my studies in Kazakhstan, it was mostly about theory. Here, it is practiced,” she explained, describing how she lives in common with Christian students at The Lay Centre and participates in meals, prayer, and activities with them.
Nostra Aetate Foundation
Ms. Dyussenova is being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue’s Nostra Aetate Foundation, which promotes interreligious dialogue for peace through education. The Foundation grants scholarships to eligible students from other religions who desire to deepen their knowledge of Christianity through study at the Pontifical academic institutions in Rome. The program also includes interreligious and cultural experiences in a plural environment.
Interest in Interreligious Relations in Kazakhstan
Ms. Dyussenova is employed by the Committee on Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Information and Public Development in Nur-Sultan. She was a Religious Studies student at Eurasian National University. She explains, “Today, representatives of more than 3,800 religious associations representing 18 confessions and more than 120 ethnic groups live peacefully in Kazakhstan. Our task is to preserve and strengthen interfaith and interreligious harmony in the country, to develop harmonious relations between representatives of different religions.”
She noted many initiatives that the Government of Kazakhstan is taking for this purpose, such as the framework of Meetings of Representatives of Religious associations of Kazakhstan, the Council for Relations with Religious Associations and the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. On April 12, Vatican News reported Pope Francis’ interest in traveling to Khazakstan for this latter event.
It was at the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions that Ms. Dyussenova heard about the Nostra Aetate Foundation from PCID’s representative, Mons. Khaled Akasheh.
Ms. Dyussenova expressed her belief that personal exchanges and the development of a greater network of friendship with followers of other religions is a key component of the path to greater peace and collaboration in the world.
Studying Christianity and Sharing Life with Christians
She is studying at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI). She attends classes on Christian worship, theology of world religions, history of ancient Christianity, and Muslim-Christian relations. Her knowledge and experiences with her Christian friends help her understand Catholicism better and motivate her to promote interreligious dialogue.
Ms. Dyussenova stated, “I am happy to learn Catholicism. What is important to Catholics, is also important to me.” Her sentiment echoes that of the Catholic Church’s foundational document on interreligious dialogue, Nostra Aetate, which declares “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in religions” (2). Ms. Dyussenova studied the document as a university student in Kazakhstan.
Dyussenova says that she will definitely return to her own country with a greater awareness that Christians truly are her brothers and sisters in the human family. She said, “I am very grateful to the Holy See and the Foundation for such a wonderful experience.”
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