RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE IN THE REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN
The Republic of Azerbaijan is a multinational and multi-religious country. The national policy of this country is defined on the principles of tolerance and coexistence of various nationalities, ethnic groups and religious minorities.
According to item No3 of the Article No 25 of the main law of the Republic of Azerbaijan, i.e. the Constitution, the state ensures equality of rights and freedom of everybody irrespective of his race, nationality, religion, language, gender, background, state of property, service position, faith, membership to political parties, trade unions and other public institutions. Restriction of the freedom and rights of people and citizens for racial, national, linguistic, political and social background, as well as gender is forbidden.
As it is obvious from the above-mentioned article of the Constitution, each citizen of the RA has equal rights, irrespective of his\her membership to an ethnic or religious minority. According to the Article No3 of the law of the RA on Citizenship of the Azerbaijan Republic, the citizenship of the RA is equal for everybody, irrespective of the bases of its grant. The rights, freedom and responsibilities of the citizens of the RA are equal irrespective of their background, social position, state of property, religious and racial background, gender, education, language, religious faith, political conviction, type of occupation, location and period of residence and other conditions.
Nevertheless, to inspire the idea of privilege over the others for national qualities or religious background to the member of a certain nationality or of ethnic and religious minority in the Republic of Azerbaijan, active fanaticism, even physical pressure for the realization of these ideas shall be forbidden by law, and any person or group abusing in these spheres shall be punished within relevant laws by calling to account for this action. According to the Article No109 of the Crime Code of the RA termed “Prosecution”, in case if the prosecution of a certain group or an organization for their political, racial, ethnic, cultural, religious background, gender or for any other bases is forbidden by the international legal norms, i.e. deprivation of the main rights of people for their membership to a certain group or organization is connected with the crime against mankind, it shall be punished with imprisonment beginning from five to ten years.
The government has taken very significant and serious steps towards protection and ensuring the rights of the religious minorities in the Republic of Azerbaijan since the recent years of independence. The Azerbaijan Republic Law on the Freedom of religious Faith was adopted in 1992 and corresponding amendments were made to this law in 1996 and 1997 in accordance with the existing conditions. According to this law,” Every person having the right of citizenship in the Republic of Azerbaijan determines his religious faith independently, and he has the right to practice a religion alone or together with others, and to express or disseminate his belief to a certain religion”.
The Republic of Azerbaijan regarded appropriate to conduct a number of reforms on ensuring the freedom of state religious faith and regulation of the relations between the state and religion. H.Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan ratified the establishment of the State Committee on the Work with Religious Institutions by the Decree No 512, June 21, 2001.The decree determined that the main duty of the Committee was to create relevant condition for the implementation of the Article No 48 of the Constitution of the RA, ensuring the freedom of religious faith, to ensure control over the abidance to the other legislation acts on the freedom of religious faith, and to regulate more seriously the relations between the state and religious institutions.
The AR State Committee on Work with the Religious Institutions shall exercise the necessary control over the existing religious situation in order to prevent any tension in the religious situation of the country, the religious discrimination tendencies to reach the level of national relations, the efforts of various people or groups with antistate intentions under the name of religious ceremony provoke any confrontation, to protect public security and social stability, and to regulate normally the relations between the state and religion and cooperate with the relevant international organizations in the sphere of activities on preventing all kind of negative situations.
The International Scientific Conference on The Role of Religion and Faith in the Democratic Community, Search of Means of Struggle Against Terrorism and Extremism was held on October 10-11,2002, in Baku with the support of the Azerbaijani Government and by the OSCE Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.55 OSCE member states, as well as the members of the international organizations participated in the conference.
Moreover, the State Committee organizes different seminars and round table discussions on religious issues and regularly holds meetings with the representatives of the religious communities functioning in our country.
The demonstration of high tolerance in Azerbaijan and the fact that the relations of understanding existing here can be a very good example for many countries have been constantly stressed by different religious men and officials who visited our country. Asma Djahangir, Special Reporter of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the Freedom of Religion and Faith, who was on a visit to Azerbaijan from February 28 to March 5,2006 noted that the level of the existing public tolerance produced a pleasant impression on him. During the visit the special reporter was received by the President of the Azerbaijan Republic, met with a number of officials and visited the prison No1.He also visited Nakchivan and Gandja and went to the refugee and IDP camp in Barda.
Since 1999 the Day of Tolerance (November 16) has been significantly celebrated in Azerbaijan under the auspices of the national leader Haydar Aliyev. In connection with the Day of Tolerance the SCWRI organized a round table discussion on the theme of “Azerbaijan-an example of tolerance” together with the Caucasus Board of Muslims, Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church in Baku and the Caspian region and the Jewish religious community. The embassies accredited in Baku, as well as the members of the international organizations, religious men and public figures, etc participated in the ceremony.
The embassies of the Republic of Azerbaijan accredited in different countries work towards the dissemination of information about the religious tolerance existing in the country. The Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Germany together with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, as well as Germany-Azerbaijan Forum has held a conference devoted to the religious tolerance in Azerbaijan.
Different scholars, politicians experts in this field, media representatives, as well as the Chairman of the Caucasus Board of Muslims Haji Allahshukur Pashazadeh, the Chairman of the Committee for the Work with Religious Organizations Mr. Hidayat Orujov, The Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church in Baku and the Caspian region Alexandr Ishein and the Head of the Religious Community of Mountainous Jews Semyon Ikhiilov took part in this event.
Information on the religious groups and denominations in the country
Currently there are more than 330 registered religious communities in the Republic of Azerbaijan, among which 31 are non-Islamic ones.
The building of the Jen Mironosets Church (the building was built by Hadji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev in 1907) was granted to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991. Aleksi II, the Patriarch of Whole Russia who was on a visit in Azerbaijan in May 2001 granted the status of a church to this temple. Currently the number of the Russian Orthodox Churches is three in Baku, one in Gandja and one in Khachmaz.
The catholic community was registered in Azerbaijan in 1999.A special building for the conduction of religious ceremonies was purchased for the community and it became a church in 2000. According to the agreement between the Azerbaijani Government and Vatican the Roman Catholic Church has been constructed in 2007 in Baku.
Iohan Pavel II, Head of the Roman Catholic Church visited Baku in May 2002 and met with the officials and public figures here.
Bartholomew II, Greek Patriarch paid an official visit to Azerbaijan in April, 2003, had a number of meetings with the officials, religious men, and the heads of the Moslem, Christian and Jewish communities and was received by Ilham Aliyev, President of the Azerbaijan Republic.
The Albanian-Udi religious community was registered in 2003.The Albanian Church which was built in Kish, Shaki and is considered one of the oldest temples in the Caucasus, as well as the whole world was reconstructed and put under operation in 2003.The opening ceremony of the Albanian –Udi Chotari church was held in May, 2006 in Nidj district, Gabala, the location area of Saint Elisey, ancient Albanian church.
Evangel –Lutheran Church
Evangelic Christian Baptist community
Adventists of the 7th day
“Star in the East” religious community of Christian Bible
Religious community of the Molokan ecclesiastical Christian
Religious community of the Alban-Udi Christians
Ashkinazi-Religious Community of the European Jews
Cepharats- the Community of the Mountainous Jews
Community of Georgian Jews
It is more than 2500 years that the Jews have settled in Azerbaijan. They have never undergone religious intolerance or discrimination in our country. Currently 7 Jewish religious communities are registered here. Three synagogues in Baku, one in Oghuz and one in Guba are functioning. A new Jewish synagogue was put under operation in Baku in March 2003.
The first Jewish secondary school, sponsored by Od Avner Khabad Lyubavich International Foundation started to function in Baku in September 2003.
Besides, according to the decision No 222,October 5,2006 of the AR Ministers Cabinet the school No1 located in Girmizi district, Guba was granted the name of Isaac Abramovich Khanukov.
The high level of tolerance in the country and the fact that there isn’t any discrimination against the Jews living in Azerbaijan were stressed by the delegation of the Organization of the Conference of the Chief American Jewish Organizations Presidents, who visited Azerbaijan in February 9-14,2006.M.Hernlayn, Deputy Chairman of the Organization, A.Makhkevich, President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and others were among the delegates.
Non traditional religions and denominations:
International Krishna Consciousness
Evangelic Christian community
The religious centers and institutions existing in Azerbaijan are having business-like cooperation with the relevant centers abroad and closely participate in the international religious ceremonies. There is a close cooperation between the Caucasian Moslems Institution and the international OIC, as well as with the religious organizations of other foreign Moslem and non-Moslem countries. Apart from having the chairmanship of the Christian –Orthodox Churches in the Caspian region, the Episcopacy of the Russian Orthodox Church in Baku also has wide cooperation relations with the local and foreign religious centers. The Jewish communities in Azerbaijan have close relations with the international organizations, such as Sokhnut, Aguthid Israel and Tshuva Israel, as well as with the Jewish communities of the USA, England and other countries.
A number of Christian-Jewish religious educational institutions, as well as, Sunday schools by the Orthodox church, Bible courses of the Evangel- Christian orthodox communities, the Bible institution of the Life -Giving Favor Community, and the courses educating in Hebrew, Jewish religion and culture, etc are functioning in the territory of our republic. The religious communities, the centers of which are situated mainly in the USA, Switzerland and Germany are cooperating without any restrictions with the foreign religious centers within the legal framework and are functioning by getting material and emotional, as well as methodical support for practicing religious rites.