Paris, September 10, AZERTAC
As earlier reported, a conference titled ‘Religious Tolerance: The Culture of Coexistence in Azerbaijan’ was held in Paris, France Sept. 8, as part of the ‘Azerbaijan in the heart of Paris’ project of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
The first lady of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva took part in the conference.
The host of the conference, well-known political scientist Pierre Conesa, noting that tolerance has been always a relevant topic in French society, spoke about the significance of Azerbaijan’s steps in this area.
He said the conference, organized in Paris by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, brings together the authoritative religious figures and representatives of religious communities of both Azerbaijan and France, and stressed that topical issues would be discussed at the event.
The mayor of the 1st arrondissement of Paris, Jean-Francois Legaret noted that today the topic of tolerance is acquiring greater relevance in global agenda. He underscored that Azerbaijan’s interest in the said topic, which is a matter of global importance, is exemplary.
Addressing the conference, Mehriban Aliyeva noted that Azerbaijan has been historically located at the crossroads of civilizations and cultures, being a bridge between Asia and Europe, and these factors play an important role in the emergence of cultural diversity.
“Traditions of tolerance are also alive today in our country,” said Mehriban Aliyeva. “Azerbaijan is a member of both the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Council of Europe. We are proud of our cultural and historical heritage.”
She said there are mosques, churches and synagogues in Azerbaijan and all the religious freedoms are ensured in the country.
Mehriban Aliyeva said the representatives of all religions in Azerbaijan enjoy equal rights, adding that there has never been any confrontation on religious, ethnic grounds in the country.
Azerbaijani first lady also noted that the relations between state and religion play an important role in preserving the tolerance traditions in Azerbaijan, adding that the conditions created in the country give grounds to say that there is no alternative to multiculturalism.
Mehriban Aliyeva also stressed that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation attaches special attention to other religions too and said the Foundation was directly involved in organizing the Islamic culture section at the Louvre Museum, the restoration of the Roman catacombs, the creation of conditions for education of Jewish children, and the repairing of churches in Strasbourg and other regions of France.
In her speech, Mehriban Aliyeva also touched upon the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. She said that as a result of this conflict 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territories were occupied, one million people became refugees and internally displaced persons, 613 Azerbaijanis were atrociously killed in Khojaly, and Azerbaijani national and historical monuments were destroyed.
The first lady also underscored that Azerbaijan will continue to contribute to universal values.
The Chairman of Azerbaijani State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations Mubariz Gurbanly said in his turn that Azerbaijan’s Constitution, which was adopted in 1995, reflects the principle of secularity of Azerbaijani state, which covers the relations between state and religion.
He noted that today, one of the important elements of tolerance in Azerbaijan is that its preservation has become a state policy.
Mubariz Gurbanly informed about the activities of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations founded in 2001. He said that the activities of traditional religious communities are fully supported in Azerbaijan and there is no discrimination.
Gurbanly pointed out that Heydar Aliyev Foundation makes contribution to further strengthening of tolerance atmosphere in the country.
The conference went on with discussions. It was noted that discussing such issues as the order of coexistence of various nations in Azerbaijan, attitude to various religions, different approach to religious sects compared to other countries, maintaining the tolerance atmosphere in society is becoming the most relevant issue.
Addressing the conference, the Head of the Community of Azerbaijan's Mountain Jews Milikh Yevdayev said seven synagogues, two secondary schools, one college, three kindergartens for Jews and the Jewish House operate in Azerbaijan.
He said that Azerbaijani and Jewish people have always shown an excellent example of co-existence, and Mountain Jews actively participate in development processes in Azerbaijan today as well.
“Imagine, the government has built a synagogue for us in a Muslim country. It has no analogues in the world,” said Yevdayev.
The interreligious consensus has been brought to the level of state policy in Azerbaijan and there are no double standards in this sphere, he added.
Jean-Pierre Allali, Executive Board member of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (SRIF) said that he visited Azerbaijan some time ago and was impressed by what he saw in the country.
Allali noted that the freedom of religion, the attitude to the Jewish community in Azerbaijan is at a high level.
Joining the debate, other participants asked questions about the order of regulating the interreligious relations in Azerbaijan, teaching religion in schools and etc.
It was noted that there are no problems with interreligious relations in Azerbaijan and it has been so for centuries. Secondary schools pay attention to teaching religion and education of youth in the spirit of national and spiritual values is in the spotlight.
Touching about the important factors which are the basis of tolerant atmosphere in Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva first of all highlighted the political stability, social and economic development.
She said that social problems are successfully resolved in Azerbaijan and special attention is paid to the development of education sphere which by itself prevents the emergence of radical tendencies in society.
“We want to convey to the world that coexistence is possible,” said Mehriban Aliyeva and stressed the importance of widely popularizing this experience of Azerbaijan in the world.
Taoufik Sebti, the Vice-President of the French Council of Muslims, said that the atmosphere of tolerance in our country caused his great interest and he wants to see this.
Alexander Ischein, the Archbishop of Baku and Azerbaijan Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, said that the representatives of all religions have equal rights and actively participate in public life in Azerbaijan. All this success is based on the unique mentality of the Azerbaijani people.
Robert Mobili, the Chairman of Albanian Udi religious community, said that the Udi community, separated from the church for 170 years, returned again thanks to the care of Azerbaijan. He said that there are Udi ethnic schools in Azerbaijan.
Gennadiy Zelmanovich, the Chairman of the Baku Religious Community of European Jews, said that the Jews, as well as the representatives of other religions in Azerbaijan are surrounded with care and attention and they have no problems with their religious needs.
Vladimir Fekete, the Ordinary of the Apostolic Prefecture of the Roman Catholic Church in Azerbaijan, said that Azerbaijani Catholics also use the favorable conditions created for them and worship freely. A Catholic church was built for them.
First Lady of Azerbaijan once again expressed her gratitude to the participants of the conference and said that such events bring the peoples closer. Mehriban Aliyeva proposed to hold the second part of the conference in Baku in the future.
The heads and representatives of the authoritative religious organizations of both Azerbaijan and France attended the conference.
Up till now, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation held several events in Azerbaijan and other countries as part of the project entitled "Azerbaijan - Address of Tolerance".
The Heydar Aliyev Foundation attaches particular importance to the mutual enrichment of cultures and civilizations, the strengthening of a dialogue between peoples, the preservation of the traditions of tolerance in Azerbaijan.
It repairs and restores the religious monuments, temples, buildings, organizes conferences and exhibitions as part of these projects.
An evening of classical music entitled "Azerbaijani music in the heart of Paris" organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation was held September 8.