BAKU, Azerbaijan, Nov. 15
Azerbaijan is one of the countries promoting the values of multiculturalism and tolerance and the fact that the Summit of World Religious Leaders is being held in Baku testifies to this, Russian expert and politician Pavel Zarifullin told Trend.
“This is very important for me as for a Eurasian and I will explain the reason,” the expert said. “I have recently visited Baku, including the beautiful Ateshgah temple. This is the place where the sacred lights of Zoroastrians and representatives of other religions were burning for millennia.”
“I was surprised because in the Middle Ages, despite the peak of the triumph of religious feelings among people, despite the change of milestones among many peoples and faiths, this often happened in the form of fratricidal, civil wars, and of course, multiculturalism was out of the question,” Zarifullin said.
“It is strange but Ateshgah for Baku has remained for millennia as the center of tolerance and multiculturalism, as we would say now because both local Zoroastrians and visiting merchants, along with Indian traders, Shaivites, Vishnuites came to this place, paid tribute to their gods, their culture,” the expert said. “Nobody reproached them. On the contrary, local residents created conditions for them to perform religious rites calmly in accordance with their conscience and the memory of their ancestors.”
“By visiting Ateshgah, I was surprised and pleasantly struck by the careful restoration,” Zarifullin said. "This testifies to the fact that modern Azerbaijan, as we know it, lively, active, as well as tolerant, is just trying to take the best from its past since the period of tolerance of interreligious relations. It is important, it is necessary.”
“Over the past decades, we have experienced the collapse of the Soviet Union and the numerous wars related to it, stabbing on the basis of religious and interethnic relations,” the expert said. “Everyone was extremely tired of this and someone had to raise the banner of the interethnic and interfaith world. Where can it be done?! Of course, this can be done in Baku - in a city which has been the center of unity of many peoples and religions for thousands of years."
The second Summit of World Religious Leaders kicked off in Baku on Nov. 14. The summit is timed to the 70th anniversary of Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Office Sheikhulislam Allahshukur Pashazade and the 40th anniversary of his work as Sheikhulislam.
The religious leaders and influential political figures from 70 countries, including the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia are taking part in the summit.
The Russian delegation includes deputy chairman of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Ilyas Umakhanov, parliamentarians and leaders of the Muslim communities.
The religious leaders of several CIS countries, representatives of Orthodox churches, the Vatican, the clergy of Turkey, Iran, the Arab world, the European countries and the US gathered in Baku.
The purpose of the summit is the development of interreligious dialogue on a global scale, the promotion of such values as mutual understanding and solidarity, the expansion of ties between different cultures and religions.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev delivered speech at the opening ceremony of the summit. During the summit, participants in plenary and panel sessions are discussing the issues of tolerance and inter-religious solidarity, the role of religious leaders in the fight against terrorism, their contribution to the protection of the rights of women and children and enlightenment of young people.
The first Summit of World Religious Leaders was held in Baku in April 2010.