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Azerbaijan: Bahá’í principle of unity inspires national conference on coexistence

images of a conference, includes people sitting in an auditorium, people talking at a pedestal and images of Azerbaijan cities
The first national conference on coexistence in Azerbaijan was inspired by discussions about the Bahá’í principle of unity in diversity just days before to the event.

OĞUZ, Azerbaijan — The first national conference on fostering coexistence in Azerbaijan was held by the government’s State Committee on Religious Associations on Saturday, bringing together officials, representatives of diverse faith communities, civil society leaders, academics, and journalists.

The conference was organized by the state committee just six days after discussions took place among diverse social actors about the Bahá’í principle of unity in diversity. The gathering was also a response to the growing interest in Azerbaijani society to explore questions concerning an inclusive national identity.

image of people sitting in an auditorium
Participants at the two-day conference explored notions of a national identity based on the principle of unity in diversity.

Eyvaz Gurbanov, head of the Oğuz District Executive Authority, gave the opening remarks, stating that Azerbaijan has a long tradition of multiculturalism and that there is a great interest in the country to strengthen a culture of coexistence and tolerance.

Ramazan Asgarli, of Azerbaijan’s Bahá’í Office of External Affairs, elaborated on this idea during a plenary session, stating: “Multiculturalism does not represent a static reality. It implies something that is dynamic, inclusive, and set against the backdrop of a changing world.”

Mr. Asgarli explained that the root cause of the struggles among peoples and nations of the world is a crisis of identity. “Different nations and groups are striving to find their place in the world, and in the absence of a common identity, their relations become strained.”

4 images of people talking in various settings
Seen here are different discussion forums held by the Bahá’ís of Azerbaijan to address issues of national concern, including the equality of women and men and social harmony.

His comments highlighted the need for notions of identity that at once foster unity and contain the essential concept of diversity.

"We are all like the flowers of one garden,” he said. “If all the flowers were the same color and shape, that garden would be monotonous. Its beauty is enriched because of the differences in color, shape, and aroma.

“If we all see ourselves in this light, our relationships will transform. Why should the flowers of a garden be in conflict with each other?”

As part of the conference, attendees collectively visited the different places of worship associated with each faith to continue their discussions and to pray together for the future of their society.

In her reflections at the conclusion of the conference, Almaz Abdurahmanova, another attendee and representative of the Bahá’ís of Oğuz, stated: “Although coexistence is valued in Azerbaijan, the group visits to different religious places broke down many barriers and significantly contributed to building trust.”

The conference, which received wide national coverage, has stimulated great interest among the attendees for future forums to explore issues related to fostering an inclusive identity.

4 images of young people-youth and children discussing and partaking in activities and discussions together
The efforts of the Bahá’ís of Azerbaijan to promote a peaceful society range from community-building initiatives at the grassroots that build capacity for service to society and participation in prevalent discourses.

3 images of a play being shown, all are wearing traditional or old-style outfits
As part of their contributions to the discourse on coexistence, the Bahá’ís of Azerbaijan have highlighted the principle of the equality of women and men. This was one of the themes of a play about the life of Tahirih—an influential poet, champion of women’s emancipation, and a Bahá’í heroine born of Azeri roots—staged at the Azerbaijan State Academic National Drama Theatre.

Originally published on Baha'i World News Service



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