Statement by Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, at the Ministerial Meeting of the UN Alliance of Civilization Group of Friends
New York, September 28, 2012
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the contemporary world of growing intolerance, discrimination and violence based on religion or belief, intercultural dialogue has become one of the most important tools for sustainable peace, stability and development.
We cannot but once again express our deep concern over the recent escalation provoked by blasphemy against Islam. We strongly condemn all assaults against religions. At the same time, attacks on civilians, in particular diplomatic personnel, are unjustifiable under any circumstances. It is critical to foster a global dialogue and cooperation for the promotion of tolerance, peace and better understanding across countries, cultures and civilizations. The nature of civilizations and cultures is to overlap, interact and evolve in relation to one another.
As a member of the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations, Azerbaijan feels responsible for the promotion of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue based on mutual respect and understanding.
As a country located at the crossroads of the West and East, North and South and benefiting of being part of both the Islamic world and Europe, Azerbaijan has always been a place of peaceful and prosperous coexistence and tolerance between different faiths, ethnic groups and philosophies.
During his visit to our country in 2002, Pope John Paul II had described Azerbaijan as “an example of peaceful co-existence and cooperation among religions”. Ms. Asma Jahangir, former UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief characterized Azerbaijan as a country where “high level of religious tolerance and harmony exists”.
Azerbaijan is proud of its cultural diversity and considers it as strength and advantage, which give us an ample opportunity to contribute to the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue and understanding, encourage ethnic and religious diversity and develop inter-communal links.
Thus, over the last years, Azerbaijan hosted a number of high-profile and action-oriented events. Among them are the international conference on the role of media in the development of tolerance and mutual understanding; a high-level conference in the framework of “Youth for Alliance of Civilizations” initiative; the international gathering on the role of women in cross-cultural dialogue; the conference on intercultural dialogue of Ministers of Culture of the Council of Europe States and Europe’s neighboring countries; and the Conference of OIC Ministers of Culture.
Another remarkable event was an International Summit on Interfaith Dialogue and World Summit of Religious Leaders, both events hosted by Azerbaijan in 2010.
As a continuation of Baku Process of Cross-Cultural Dialogue initiated in 2008, Azerbaijan, in co-operation with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Council of Europe, UNESCO and ISESCO, organized last April the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue attended by 500 participants from many countries and leading international organizations. Besides, we planning to host the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue every two years.
Azerbaijan has opened a new opportunity in the political discourse over the contemporarily acute intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, and we look forward to continue our efforts to this end.
In conclusion, I express the hope that this important meeting will make a valuable contribution to the efforts aimed at overcoming the stereotypes and misconceptions, diminishing hostility and promoting dialogue, understanding and mutual respect among peoples of different cultural and religious traditions.