A Summary of the Seminar “Multiculturalism and Inter-religious Tolerance: The Experience of Azerbaijan and its Significance for Europe”
On November 18, 2015, ISDP co-organized the seminar “Multiculturalism and Inter-religious Tolerance: The Experience of Azerbaijan and its Significance for Europe” together with the Baku International Multiculturalism Center and the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of Sweden.
Listen to ISDP Director Svante Cornell’s opening speech here:
The seminar consisted of two panels examining the multicultural experience of Azerbaijan. As ISDP Director Dr. Svante Cornell stated in his introductory remarks, the Greater Middle East is a region vexed by a complicated geopolitical situation and escalating sectarian conflicts. In this context, the Republic of Azerbaijan stands as a rather unique case as it witnesses a great consensus on the idea of a civic nation, which is shared by the political leadership, religious representatives, and civil society at large.
The first panel saw a delegation of high-ranking religious dignitaries from Azerbaijan discussing their experience of multiculturalism and inter-religious tolerance in the country. The delegation included the Muslim Mufti Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, the chairman of the Caucasian Muslim Boards; Alexander Ishein, the Archbishop of the Baku and Azerbaijan Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church; Ordinary Vladimir Fekete, the Ordinary of the Apostolic Prefecture of the Roman Catholic Church in Azerbaijan; Milix Yevdayev, the leader of the Mountain Jews Religious Community; Gennadiy Zelmanovich, the chairman of the Baku Religious Community of European Jews; and Kamal Abdullayev, the State Adviser on Inter-ethnic, Multicultural and Religious Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The delegation representatives highlighted the government’s efforts in establishing a nurturing environment conducive to tolerance, mutual understanding, and dialogue between cultures, and they shared their personal experiences on solidarity and friendship among all religious confessions in Azerbaijan. The panelists also praised the role of President Aliyev, who implemented multiculturalism as a state policy as well as a way of life, thus ensuring that all ethnic and religious groups feel at home in Azerbaijan.
The second panel focused on a comparative analysis of the Azerbaijani and Swedish models of multiculturalism. Keynote speakers were Helene Egnell, the leader of the Centre for Inter Faith Dialogue; Göran Lennmarker, a former member of the Swedish Parliament and former president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly; Azad Mammadov, the executive director of Baku International Multiculturalism Center; Stefan Gullgren, the deputy Director-General of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Head of Department for Eastern Europe and Central Asia; and Svante Cornell, Director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy.
The panelist concluded that Sweden and Azerbaijan can learn from each other’s experience in dealing with multiculturalism, and stressed the importance of providing platforms for dialogue that will prove mutually beneficial for all parties involved. In the light of the increasing inter-religious and inter-ethnic tensions in Europe and over the world, the Azerbaijani model of multiculturalism may offer a viable example for other countries dealing with tolerance issues.
ISDP would like to thank the speakers and audience who contributed to the success of the seminar, as well as the Baku International Multiculturalism Center and the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of Sweden for their assistance in the organization of the event.