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The Hill: Stunning Christmas decorations in a largely Muslim Baku gives hope to troubled world

29 December 2017 [12:39] - TODAY.AZ


Perhaps there is hope for this world after all, wrote Raoul Lowery Contreras, an American political scientist, after his recent visit to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

In his article entitled 'Holiday hope: A glimpse of Christians, Muslims at peace' published by The Hill the author makes strong accent on tolerance environment and peaceful co-existence of different confessions in Azerbaijan.

The author noted his surprise when seeing Christmas decorations in a largely Muslim country.

“Christmas?” I exclaimed, “Really?” At 4 o’clock in the morning, I was staring at Christmas decorations — in a Muslim country surrounded by Muslim countries such as Iran, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Muslim Russian republics, and just two borders with Christian Armenia and Georgia," the author notes.

"Yet, a few hundred yards from the junction of the airport road and the main highway into the city, my eyes widened and my brain awoke: Here, in a country that is more than 95 percent Muslim, that was ravaged by hundreds of years of Russian and atheist Soviet autocratic rule, were a dozen reindeer made of wire and electric lights. A half-mile farther, a government-run SOCAR gas station was lit up with Christmas lights and decorations, including a Santa Claus."

Contreras was to Baku to attend the conference “2017 - Year of Islamic Solidarity: Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue”.

"The conference was attended by delegates from all over the world: the United States, Japan, Indonesia, India, Central Asia, Russia, Pakistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, the Vatican and many European countries," he adds.

"Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, opened the conference. Translated into English, his words were tolerant and augured well for the conference; but he did point out that 20 percent of the country is occupied by Armenian forces that have ignored United Nations resolutions demanding their withdrawal.

Every other speaker but one joined President Aliyev in talking about peace, tolerance and co-existence. And why not? Azerbaijan is known for its tolerant environment among religions, its religious harmony among Sunni and Shia Muslims," the author notes.

Contreras wrote about his visits to a Russian Orthodox church in Baku as well as a Roman Catholic church, a Sunni Muslim mosque, a Shia Muslim mosque and a Jewish synagogue.

"There is also an Armenian cathedral in Baku with more than 5,000 ancient Armenian books that the Azerbaijan government is maintaining pristinely. Other faiths function freely in Azerbaijan, including Bah’ais and Zoroastrians," the author notes.


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