Azerbaijan's multiculturalism promoted in Brussels [PHOTO]
By Fatima Hasanova
On December 5, at a conference in Brussels, Belgium, the importance of applying the Azerbaijani model of multiculturalism in Europe was emphasized, Azernews reports.
A conference was held in Brussels on the theme “Promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the sake of a secure world”, organized jointly by the European Reform Foundation New Direction, the Institute for Religious Freedom and Security in Europe, the Foundation for New Directions in European Reforms, on the joint initiative of the State Committee for the Work with religious formations of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism, as well as the Azerbaijani embassy in Belgium.
The Azerbaijani and European experts who took part in the conference discussed joint responses to such important challenges of our time as increasing intolerance in Europe, the abuse of religion for political purposes, such global challenges of our time as xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia, which pose a serious threat to peace, security, and social unity.
In their opinion, such challenges more than usual require the unification and strengthening of efforts at the international level to create a strong dialogue between religions and cultures in order to promote cultural diversity, interreligious and inter-civilizational dialogue, and understanding between different religions, as well as tolerance.
The main speaker was former British MEP Sajjid Karim, who in 2004 became the first Asian-British to be elected to the European Parliament, cited synagogues in Baku he saw during his recent visit to Azerbaijan. According to him, such places do not need protection at all.
“Given this fact, we can safely say about religious tolerance in Azerbaijan and what we can learn from this country,” Karim said.
Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations Siyavush Heydarov, Ambassador of our country to Belgium Vagif Sadikhov, Executive Director of the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism Ravan Hasanov spoke about the model of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan, shared their experience in religious and intercultural harmony, coexistence.
Another speaker at the session on the role of religion in the modern world was Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis. He told the participants in the event that Azerbaijan is an example to follow.
“Even in the most difficult period, this country has been a center of religious tolerance, especially towards the Jewish community. I am happy to report that this attitude continues today. Europe and Europeans are becoming more and more secular, but radical religion continues to define our society and we cannot ignore it. That's why it's so important to support moderate religion,” Goldschmidt said.
At the event, the conference participants received greetings from the chairman of the Board of Muslims of the Caucasus, Sheikh ul-Islam Allahsukur Pasazada.
Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Daniel Holtgen also addressed the meeting. He said that according to the latest data, about 25 percent of people in Europe do not identify themselves with any particular religion.
“At the same time, the number of hate crimes against religious minorities is on the rise,” he said.
The conference discussed issues of combating crimes motivated by anti-Semitism, intolerance against Islam and other religions in the world, and especially in Europe. The experts from various European countries who took part in the conference highly appreciated the model of Azerbaijan and stressed that this is an example for every country.
It was noted that incidents of discrimination remain problems for many societies and often escalate from hate speech to violence up to armed conflicts. In this context, interreligious and intercultural dialogue is an important means to counter and eliminate mutual accusations.
It was brought to the attention that the importance of eliminating all forms of intolerance and discrimination against religion and beliefs, as well as promoting peace and non-violence is recognized at the global level and reflected in the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly.
It was emphasized that Azerbaijan is a faithful defender of multiculturalism and is making important efforts to actively promote these values. Along with the fact that multiculturalism has been a way of life in Azerbaijan for centuries, it is also an important part of state policy.
The participants were informed that in order to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue in Azerbaijan, numerous international events were held in Baku, such as the UN Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations, the World Summit of Religious Leaders, the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, the Baku International Humanitarian Forum.
The conference created favorable conditions for deepening cooperation in the field of multiculturalism, discussing views on the prospects for interreligious dialogue, and exchanging experiences.
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