By Aynur Karimova
Azerbaijan, being faithful to the ideas of multiculturalism and seeing dialogue as a best tool for building peace and prosperity amid the crises and tensions, has declared 2016 the Year of Multiculturalism.
President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on January 11 to declare 2016 the Year of Multiculturalism in Azerbaijan in an effort to maintain, further develop and popularize the traditions of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan.
To realize the presidential decree the Cabinet of Ministers will develop within a month an Action Plan with consideration of proposals of the Baku International Center of multiculturalism, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Ministry of Education, the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations and the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.
Today Azerbaijan, a country which established the first secular democracy in the Muslim world in 1918 and offered women the right to vote in 1919, acts as a model for peaceful coexistence of members of different nations and religions for many other countries as well.
Tolerance and multiculturalism in secular Azerbaijan is a style of life for over 9.6 million people living at the crossroad of the East and West, and combining traditions and cultures. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population (about 96 percent) of the country is Muslims, worshippers of other religions enjoy freedom here, and one can often witness Jewish synagogues and Orthodox and Christian churches and other religious centers functioning freely.
One of the oldest mosques in the world is in Azerbaijan, in the city of Shamakhi, dating from 743, and also one of the oldest Christian churches, an Armenian church from the 12-13 century, is also located in this country. Orthodox and Catholic churches, synagogues, Zoroastrian temples, are bright examples of Azerbaijan's multicultural heritage.
In fact, Azerbaijan has set up an international centre for multiculturalism in 2014, as a concrete effort to promote the values of multiculturalism. Also, in 2008, Azerbaijan launched the so-called “Baku process,” a dialogue between culture ministers, individuals and groups with different cultural and religious backgrounds, promoted as an “antidote to violence.”
Thanks to domestic interfaith and multicultural harmony, Azerbaijan was able to protect itself from the triggers of extremism, one of the most dangerous threats of the modern world amid the clashing cultures and religions.
Azerbaijan makes important contributions to the traditions of tolerance, intercultural and inter-civilization dialogue. The country's success in multiculturalism relies on the full-scale embrace of this openness and tolerance by both government and the society at large which has remained primarily stable for many decades.
Regarded as a model of tolerance and multiculturalism around the world, Azerbaijan aims to continue building tolerance and intercultural dialogue in the country and throughout the world.
Here in Azerbaijan, the representatives of all religions and nationalities live here as a family, in an atmosphere of peace, friendship, tranquility and mutual understanding. This is Azerbaijan's great heritage, a great advantage.
Azerbaijan believes that multiculturalism is the only way for the development of mankind in the future, because in the age of globalization, when the exchange of information and, in general, the processes of integration is active, engaging in self-isolation is simply disastrous.
Taking intercultural dialogue as one of the most pressing challenges of the contemporary world, Azerbaijan has been sponsoring World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku once every two years since 2011.
Azerbaijan will host the 7th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations from April 25 to 27, 2016. By using the UN tribune, Azerbaijan will once again show its multiculturalism traditions, and urge the world countries to respect to tolerance, intercultural and inter-civilization dialogue.
Aynur Karimova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Aynur_Karimova
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz