Ilham Aliyev opposes use of religion for political purposes

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Ilham Aliyev opposes use of religion for political purposes

The 2nd Summit of World Religious Leaders is underway in Baku, which brought together representatives of more than 70 countries from five continents, 25 leaders of traditional religions and religious movements, as well as about 500 high-level representatives from international organizations, including heads and religious leaders of constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

At the opening of the forum, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Ilyas Umakhanov read out President Vladimir Putin’s letter to participants of the summit and cited national leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev: “True spirituality cannot be bought, neither for millions nor for billions, but people deprived of spirituality are worthless for society. Even if they have these millions and billions."

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia recalled that in recent years numerous inter-religious and inter-cultural events have been held in Baku and many countries under the auspices of Azerbaijan to collectively answer the complex questions of our time. “Our common duty and joint task is speaking for moral guidelines in human life. Religious leaders can and should turn to political leaders with a single voice. It is time to make clear that it is necessary to stop solving geopolitical tasks due to weaker ones, including due to weak states. It is time to stop the irresponsible sharing of energy resources. It is time to stop dividing the countries into first, second and third ones. I would like more developed and wealthy states to realize their response "for the fate of mankind. They should be guarantors of security and stability, not dictators of a global order," the patriarch said.

Speaking at the opening of the forum, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev recalled that his country has ancient inter-religious traditions: “Regardless of the socio-political system, Azerbaijan has always proved to be a model country in this regard. Representatives of all religions, all ethnic groups have lived here for centuries as one family in peace, friendship and mutual understanding ... Azerbaijan is a multiconfessional, multinational country, which is our great wealth. Religious and ethnic diversity is our great wealth."

The ancient history of the country is reflected in religious monuments, indicating that Azerbaijan is an ancient land, where representatives of various religions lived, created and left a wonderful historical heritage. One of the oldest mosques of the Islamic world is located in Azerbaijan. The Shamakhi Juma Mosque was built in 743, a few years ago it was thoroughly renovated. This is the oldest mosque in the Caucasus after the Derbent Mosque. Near another historic Azerbaijani city of Sheki, there is a church of an ancient state - Caucasian Albania, which is considered one of the oldest churches in the Caucasus. The Ateshgah fire-worshipping temple is located in Baku. This indicates that Zoroastrianism has ancient roots in Azerbaijan. Subsequently, Russian Orthodox churches, synagogues, and the Catholic Church were built there. Inter-religious dialogue has an ancient history, and the modern Azerbaijani state is committed to these traditions.

International organizations, as well as religious leaders of the world highly appreciate Azerbaijan's activity in this direction. Patriarch Cyril, who has repeatedly visited Azerbaijan, Pope Francis, who visited Azerbaijan, and the leaders of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have always said that inter-religious dialogue is organized at a high level in Azerbaijan.

At the same time, Ilham Aliyev noted that in various parts of the world, a campaign is being conducted against traditional values, they are being denigrated, new “values” that are foreign to us and do not correspond to our national thinking are being instilled. "We must protect ourselves, and especially the young generation, from this alien and negative influence. Azerbaijan is one of the countries promoting the values of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a way of life, as well as Azerbaijan's state policy," the president noted.

Important steps are being taken in Azerbaijan in this direction: it traditionally holds the Baku Humanitarian Forum; the UN-supported World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue; Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations; the Summit of World Religious Leaders.

Meanwhile, the range of interreligious relations is quite wide. “Looking at the general concept in Azerbaijan, we see several directions, which means not just contacts of religious leaders with each other. They hold various events and send important messages. Among these events, I want to note the First European Games held in Azerbaijan several years ago and the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games. Although these are sports competitions, they are of great political importance. These games are not just sports competitions. It was a holiday of friendship in Azerbaijan. More than 100 countries were represented in sports competitions, with thousands of athletes, coaches and guests attending the both events, and, of course, these games played a big role in promoting inter-religious, intercultural dialogue," Ilham Aliyev said.

However, speaking of inter-religious dialogue, he didn't limit himself to stating only positive aspects, condemning attempts to link conflicts with a religious factor. One such example is the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "Nagorno-Karabakh is ancient and historical Azerbaijani land. The Azerbaijani people have lived and created there for centuries, all toponyms in the territory related to Nagorno-Karabakh on old maps, including maps printed by tsarist Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, are of Azerbaijani origin. The Karabakh Khanate was an Azerbaijani Khanate. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Armenians were resettled in Nagorno-Karabakh, so in the 20th century the national composition there was significantly deformed. Speaking of the maps of the republics after the Bolshevik revolution, the Bolshevik government  decided to preserve Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. This is very important, because Armenian historians, who are masters in distorting history, claim that a decision was made to transfer Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan. While that was not the case, and historical documents confirm that a decision was made to keep Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. That is, it simultaneously reflects historical and political moments," Ilham Aliyev said.

He also recalled that before the Soviet Union collapsed, the nationalist forces that became active in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia unleashed aggression against Azerbaijan, as a result of military aggression, 20% of the lands, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent areas, have been occupied. Genocide against the Azerbaijani people was committed in these territories, historical monuments, graves and mosques were destroyed. The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions in connection with the conflict, which contain provisions on the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from Azerbaijani territoriess, but Armenia ignores these resolutions. Other international organizations, including the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other organizations, adopted similar decrees and resolutions. The only way to resolve the conflict is to restore the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

The President expressed confidence that the 2nd Summit of World Religious Leaders will be of great importance, and the messages sent from Baku will find their addressee: "One of the main directions is to prevent religious discrimination, using religion for political purposes, giving conflicts a religious connotation, destructing historical and religious monuments during conflicts, but at the same time to conduct a joint struggle against xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and promote traditional values."