Sunday, March 30, 2008

Muslim-Christian Relations in Azerbaijan

Christian Music in Azerbaijan

The Vatican Secretary of State has stated that the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan is a model of religious tolerance that the whole world could use as a guide. This is clearly very different news from what we are use to hearing. All over the world we hear of religious fanatics of all faiths being intolerant of others. So what makes Azerbaijan so different?

Perhaps it is partly due to history. Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim country had been ruled by the atheistic communist regime of the old U.S.S.R. The citizens know what persecution and intolerance feels like. The result is a very different response to diversity.

The country has maintained traces of the early Christian Church. In fact there are two tiny remnant Churches within its boundaries, Orthodox and Catholic. Under the direction of its President the country has reconstructed a Catholic Church that had been destroyed by the communists. The land had been donated to Pope John Paul II by the President of the Republic in 2002. A homeless shelter ran by the sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is to be part of the new church complex. So on March 19, 2007, the Vatican secretary of State was in attendance for the dedication of the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
This is indeed a gift worth giving thanks for. In a nation that is 99% Muslim it was the leadership, the people and the religious communities that made this possible. It was the Caucasian Muslim Office and the religious leaders of Azerbaijan that made this day possible. Now that is inter-faith dialogue!

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