An event dedicated to Azerbaijan’s traditions of multiculturalism and multi-faith harmony and tolerance was held in San Francisco at the renowned Commonwealth Club on May 16, 2018. The event took place on the sidelines of the California visit of a delegation of Azerbaijan’s faith and community leaders, led by Mubariz Gurbanli, the Chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations (SCWRO) of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Jointly organized by the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles and the American Jewish Committee’s San Francisco Office, the event was attended by representatives of local Jewish community, as well as different ethnic and religious communities, faith leaders, journalists and others. Bay Area’s well-known interfaith councils such as the United Religions Initiative, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, Interfaith at the Presidio, Marin Interfaith Council and Silicon Valley Interreligious Council were the official partners of this event.
Opening the event, Matt Kahn, the Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee-San Francisco, and Rabbi Serena Eisenberg, Northern California Director of AJC, welcomed the guests and emphasized the importance of this multi-faith event. They stressed that the AJC and Azerbaijan have been enjoying strong friendship and partnership for many years now, mentioning the annual visits by the AJC leadership to Azerbaijan.
Speaking afterwards, the Chairman of the SCWRO Mubariz Gurbanli stated that the tolerance in Azerbaijan has very solid foundations, rich traditions and deep historical and cultural roots. He also mentioned that there has always been a strong relationship of mutual trust between ethnic and religious communities in the country. Stating that 809, including 31 non-Islamic religious communities had been registered in Azerbaijan, Gurbanli said that people belonging to all religions live in a mutual understanding and peace in the country. He also stressed that President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan elevated multifaith harmony and tolerance to the level of state policy in the country.
In his speech, the Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev expressed his gratitude to the AJC-San Francisco for partnering with the Consulate General in arranging this wonderful event showcasing Azerbaijan’s long-standing traditions of tolerance, inclusion and multiculturalism and the centuries-long peaceful co-existence of all peoples and religions. Aghayev also mentioned that at this Commonwealth Club in 1919 the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson delivered a speech during which he recalled his meeting with the delegation from the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (which was the world’s first majority-Muslim secular republic) at the Paris Peace Conference and outlining his positive impression of the Azerbaijani delegation and the values they represented.
In their remarks, Fuad Nurullayev, Deputy Chairman of the Caucasian Muslims' Office, Deputy to Sheikh-ul-Islam of the Caucasus; Milikh Yevdayev, President of the Religious Community of the Mountain Jews of Baku; Aleksandr Sharovskiy, President of the Religious Community of European Jews of Baku; Robert Mobili, President of the Albanian-Udi Christian Religious Community of Azerbaijan; and Elnur Afandiyev, the Archpriest of the Baku Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church highlighted the ancient traditions of tolerance and multiculturalism in Azerbaijan noting that people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Muslims, Christians, Jews and representatives of other faiths have been living together in peace, brotherhood and mutual respect for many centuries in Azerbaijan and continue to do so today.
At the end of the panel discussions, members of the delegation answered the questions of the audience in a Q&A Session.The discussions were moderated by Rev. Will McGarvey, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County.
A photo exhibition reflecting the traditions of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan was also presented to the attendees.
The event was received with much interest by the audience.