Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


A Silk Road Legacy: Freedom of Trade & Freedom of Religion

12 Jul, 2017

By Kevin White


For centuries, the Silk Road flourished offering the free flow of trade between the East and the West. It brought silk, paper and ceramic wares to the West. The Silk Road brought furs, metal works, and glass wares to the East.

Along with the free flow of trade, the Silk Road also fostered the free exchange of ideas. Ideas have consequences. Any society which seeks to achieve its full potential must analyze its history as well as the ideas and assumptions underlying society. Who are we as human beings? Where did we come from? What is our purpose? What ideas have worked and why? Which ideas have not worked? Where did we come from and where are we going? How did we get here and how do we get to where we need to go?

Archeology and cultural anthropology are disciplines through which we conduct scientific research to attempt to answer these fundamental questions. To discover – or to rediscover – a lost or forgotten history allows us the opportunity to have a more clear and precise picture of the map of history – where we were, where we are today, and where we should go from here.

The International Conference for Religions of Kazakhstan and Central Asia on the Great Silk Road represents a much needed and bold step in addressing the often overlooked role which religion historically played in Silk Road commerce. …

Kazakhstan has made very positive steps in recognizing the important role religion plays in society. In his 2012 speech outlining Kazakhstan’s 2050 Plan to become one of the top thirty economies in the world, President Nursultan Nazarbayev affirmed the role of religion in development, stating: “We enter a period of our development, when the spiritual issues will have a meaning no less important than issues of economic and material concern.” In affirming Kazakhstan’s commitment to tolerance, he stated: “It is not the States’ role to intervene on the internal affairs of religious communities. We remain steadfastly committed to the freedom of conscience, tolerance of traditions and principles.”

There were many religions along the Silk Road, which until the 14th century coexisted peacefully. When rulers allowed this freedom of religion, protecting the rights of the people, Silk Road trade flourished. This is an important lesson for today as Kazakhstan seeks to serve as a leader in reviving Silk Road commerce. Situated as the geopolitical center between East and West, Kazakhstan has an extraordinary opportunity to serve as the prime mover to bring back to life the Great Silk Road.

Read the full article: A Silk Road Legacy – Freedom of Trade & Freedom of Religion (Kevin White)