By Fuad Huseynzade,
“Historically, representatives of different nationalities and religions have lived in peace and tranquility in Azerbaijan, a country with an atmosphere of friendship, brotherhood and an advanced culture of coexistence,” President Ilham Aliyev said.
The unique pattern of tolerance in Azerbaijan, where diverse ethnicities and religious groups peacefully coexist, has been preserved for centuries.
In this regard, Rabbi Marc Schneier, President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, emphasized this during the 2019 conference titled “From Interreligious and Inter-civilizational Dialogue towards Cooperation” held in Baku, stating, «There is no need to declare a year of tolerance in Azerbaijan, as every year is a year of tolerance here. Tolerance has prevailed in Azerbaijan for 100 years.»
The absence of issues with national minorities and religious groups in Azerbaijan is attributed to the implementation of state policies aligned with national legislation and international legal norms, safeguarding ethnic and religious minorities’ rights to language, culture, education, and religious freedom as outlined in the Constitution.
For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a Presidential Decree has been signed in Azerbaijan to protect the rights and freedoms of national minorities and ethnic groups, as well as ensure state assistance for the development of their language and culture. The «National Action Plan for the Protection of Human Rights,» approved by the President of Azerbaijan, underscores the government’s commitment to the development of the cultural heritage of national minorities and to further strengthening tolerance.
Because tolerance is the true national moral value of our people; the state of Azerbaijan has always supported this issue. President Ilham Aliyev said that representatives of different ethnicities and religions have lived in peace and tranquility in our country for centuries, stating, «There has never been, never will be, discrimination on national or religious grounds in Azerbaijan. All people living in Azerbaijan are our valuable citizens, and I am sure that the religious tolerance prevailing in Azerbaijan can be learned in other places as well.»
Regular interactions between the country’s leadership and religious community leaders reflect the government’s interest in addressing their needs. President Ilham Aliyev extends congratulates to our country’s Christian and Jewish communities on religious holidays, highlighting the beautiful tradition of tolerance that has been historically ingrained in Azerbaijani society.
In Azerbaijan, national minorities are widely represented both in the parliament and in executive power bodies. One of the main directions of the national policy of the Azerbaijani state is to provide appropriate support to the language and culture of all national minorities living in our country. Testimonials from the representatives of those national minorities often affirm this. Chairman of the Religious Community of Azerbaijan’s Mountain Jews Milikh Yevdayev said that Jews living in Azerbaijan are proud of living in the most multicultural and tolerant country in the world:
“Jews who consider Azerbaijan their homeland have never been discriminated against. Azerbaijan is a wonderful example of tolerance for the whole world. Azerbaijan, with its positive example, proves the possibility of peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Jews, and Christians in conditions of peace and mutual respect. By the Decree of President Ilham Aliyev, financial resources allocated to Jewish communities are considered a high concern, as is done to other religious communities every year. Every year, on the occasion of the significant holidays of the Jewish people, the head of state congratulates all the Jewish communities in our country, and the basis for the construction and restoration of synagogues is the continuation of the tradition established by National Leader Heydar Aliyev.”
Religious tolerance in Azerbaijan serves as a positive example globally, with the model of state-religion relations created by Azerbaijan is already being recognized abroad. In the US, Utah State Legislators, for instance, issued a proclamation on February 17, 2016 praising Azerbaijan’s model of tolerance.
Promoting Azerbaijan’s tolerant model on the international stage is crucial, attracting interest from countries with rich religious and national traditions. In his letter to President Ilham Aliyev a few years ago, member of the US House of Representatives Henry Cuellar stated that relations between Azerbaijan and the US are based on mutual strategic foundations. He also expressed admiration for Azerbaijan’s commitment to tolerance and suggested sharing these values globally:
“Both countries are working together to spread tolerance on a global scale. Tolerance, respect for national minorities, and gender equality in Azerbaijan are the basis of every democratic system and they have deep roots in Azerbaijani society. From this point of view, work should be intensified in the direction of introducing the model of religion-state relations, religious tolerance and inter-religious cooperation, mutual respect in other societies in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is now ready to benefit from its historical achievements in the field of building a tolerant and multi-religious state in order to promote tolerance in Europe, America and other continents.”
In light of Azerbaijan’s tradition of coexistence, efforts are underway to encourage closer interactions among diverse peoples, including those who historically lived together, such as Armenians and Azerbaijanis. President Ilham Aliyev has continuously extended invitations to Armenian residents of Karabakh to join Azerbaijani society. It is important to foster mutual understanding and cultural projects as a means to strengthen relations between the two communities.
Fuad Huseynzade is editor-in-chief of «Diaspornews.az» news portal. Adil Adilzadeh is editor-in-chief of «Sabahinfo.az» news portal.