BAKU, Azerbaijan, April 13. Protection of conscience freedom and development of higher religious education in Azerbaijan are constantly in the focus of attention of President Ilham Aliyev, Theology Institute’s rector Agil Shirinov told Trend.
According to Shirinov, the president’s participation in the opening of a new building of the institute testifies to his respect and concern for Azerbaijan’s spiritual values and religion.
The rector said that the Institute of Theology has been under the care of the state since its creation, and the main goal of the institute is to educate religious figures free from superstitions.
"All of us witnessed the bloody events in the Middle East on religious and sectarianism grounds. Unfortunately, a religious factor was used in the events,” he noted. “Radical interpretations which don’t correspond to the origins of our religion are used to confuse people. Unfortunately, this is a bitter reality in some countries of the East. To prevent this, a religious education must be based on scientific sources.”
“Religious education taking into account the specific characteristics of each country is necessary. Sometimes we see the weakness of national identity in some people who receive religious education abroad. For them, the religious interests of the country in which they study are becoming increasingly important,” Shirinov said.
“The education of our students at Azerbaijan’s Theology Institute is important for proper understanding of religion, taking into account our local specifics,” he said. “Our institute pays special attention to such issues. We try to teach Islam and other religions to our students as they are.”
The rector pointed out that religious discrimination also occurs in Western countries.
"However, we are witnessing a historically tolerant environment in our country. People of different religions and ethnic groups live in Azerbaijan, and there have been no religious and ethnic problems between them,” he further said.
“As the President of Azerbaijan emphasized, tolerance is our way of life. Today, representatives of different religions freely live in Azerbaijan without any discrimination,” Shirinov noted. “On the contrary, they are always surrounded by state care. Annually, the state allocates financial assistance to various religious confessions.”
“A clear example of the importance which the Azerbaijani state attaches to spiritual values are our mosques and churches built and restored in the territories liberated from Armenian occupation [in the 2020 second Karabakh war],” he reminded. “The mosques destroyed by Armenia [in the previously occupied territories] are being rebuilt. In Shusha, repair of mosques is underway, and a new mosque is planned to be built.”
“I would also like to emphasize the exceptional activities of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation carried out in the liberated territories. The foundation pays special attention to the restoration of churches in the liberated territories," Shirinov said.