European Parliament’s Friends of Azerbaijan Group discusses Azerbaijan’s religious tolerance

Press Release: On 15 May 2013, The European Azerbaijan Society’s (TEAS) office in Belgium organised a meeting in the European Parliament to highlight religious freedom in Azerbaijan. The meeting explored the rich cultural diversity of Azerbaijan and attracted an audience of several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and other high-level stakeholders.

The lunch meeting was hosted by the Kristiina Ojuland MEP (ALDE, Estonia) and focussed on the extent of religious tolerance in Azerbaijan, which has been a crossroad of different cultural influences for centuries. Freedom of religion and respect for personal religious affiliation continues to be important values in today’s Azerbaijan.

Roman Huna, Head, TEAS Belgium, said: “Azerbaijan can be called a real example of best practice in religious tolerance. The freedom of religion and belief is one of the most personal choices a human being can make. The country has profiled itself as a very tolerant country where, according to the Constitution, each person has the right to choose and change his or her own religious affiliation and belief, to join or establish the religious group of his or her choice, and to practice his or her religion. The law on religious freedom expressly prohibits the Government from interfering in the religious activities of any individual or group.”

Kristiina Ojuland, MEP, commented: “As an MEP, I am happy to observe that, in Azerbaijan, there exists a clear law on religious freedom that expressly prohibits the Government from interfering in the religious activities of any individual or group. In this regard, Azerbaijan is a model of tolerance and respect for any faith and way of life.”

Nijat Mammadli, Head of Foreign Relations at the Azerbaijani State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations, presented a clear picture of Azerbaijan’s model of religious tolerance. He said: “Azerbaijan has always adopted an attitude of hospitality and tolerance towards people of other races and religions. The country and its government are committed towards fostering an atmosphere of interreligious tolerance and respect. That’s why today we find such a rich diversity of religions in the country.”

H.E. Fuad Isgandarov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the EU commented: “It is not widely known that Azerbaijan is a real model of tolerance, secularism and respect for every personal conviction. The best proof of this is the existence of the State Committee on Religious Organisations which protects and guarantees religious freedom to its citizens.”

For more information, e-mail: brussels@teas.eu