ALMATY, Kazakhstan, SEPT. 21, 2001 (Zenit.org).-Kazakhstan´s Muslims will receive the Pope with open arms, the spokesman of the Grand Mosque of Almaty, Wungar Haj Omirbeg, told the Vatican agency Fides.
The Grand Mosque´s spokesman explained: “All those who work for harmony and peace in the world are welcome here. All religions have a common basis: God, worship and peace.”
As U.S.-Afghan tensions rise in the wake of the Sept. 12 attacks on the United States, security is expected to be tight during the papal visit to this country, which is only a republic away from Afghanistan.
The Grand Mosque´s spokesman stressed that fundamentalism must not be confused with Islam.
“If a man follows a religion, it leads to God and peace,” Omirbeg said. “However, he must follow it faithfully. Men, like the five fingers of a hand, are different. They all hear, but each, then, makes his own choice.”
He added: “My heart is with the American people at this time of sadness. However, we must also point out that, if this is the act of a Muslim, it does not mean that all Islam is guilty.”
“I know that there are extremist movements here in Asia, fundamentalism, terrorism, but the West must not blame Islam for this,” Omirbeg insisted.
“The Pope is known to be a good, kind person,” he added. “He is the father of many individuals and peoples. We consider ourselves fortunate to welcome him in Kazakhstan. The visit will help us to recognize that we are all children of the one God. If we serve God, we are united. After all, the only purpose of life is to serve God and build peace on earth.”
The grand mufti of Kazakhstan will give a speech at the welcome ceremony for the Pope. Spokesman Omirbeg revealed that the Muslims are also “preparing a gift for the Pope, but I cannot tell you what; it´s a secret.”