The Address of Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia
To the Participants of the International Conference “The Issue of Traditions and Religious Tolerance in the Caucasus and the Model of Multiculturalism of Azerbaijan”
Your Excellency, President of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev,
Your Excellency, Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshükür Pashazade,
Honourable representatives of different religious institutions,
Distinguished members of the diplomatic corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We most heartily greet you on behalf of one of the most ancient churches, the Church of Georgia, and express our contentment that our representatives have been invited to such an authoritative gathering. This is yet more proof of our nations’ and our states’ benevolent relations, which have many a time been revealed at other meetings, conferences and summits, also in the relationships between the religious and supreme leaders of our states.
We express our gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev for his benevolent support of our country; We express our gratitude to the Chairman of the Religious Council of the Caucasus Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshükür Pashazade for his love and respect extended towards us; Mutual respect is a characteristic feature of our nations. Clear evidence of this respect is the functioning of both newly-built and old temples of various religions in our countries. These religious institutions lead a spirited life within their communities; among them are our churches in Hereti, in the region of Kakhi, and the over three hundred mosques and more than ten religious and cultural organizations of Azerbaijanis in Georgia.
Georgia and Azerbaijan are multicultural, multiethnic states, encompassing every ethnic and religious group within themselves. These groups peacefully co-exist, sharing all the benefits which these countries can offer them; but it does not mean that we do not face any problems at large.
Nowadays, much is said about the freedom of speech, which allows non-believers and insolent men to commit outrages against individuals, and blaspheme against the religious feelings of believers. Although it is conventionally acknowledged that freedom of expression should not give rise to the restriction of the rights of others, in some countries the prevailing standard of human rights for every individual is not appropriately protected, which creates serious problems.
We have our ways of life and traditions, mouldedover centuries. These are values which define the culture of our relationships.
Contemporary requirements should be brought into harmony with our ways of life, in order to maintain our roots and in this way be continuers of the best traditions of our ancestors, as their successors.
Here, we also note that religious and ethnic conflicts, present in different regions of the world, naturally, call forth deep distress and disturbance, further urging us to continue our joint efforts in the creation of a peaceful atmosphere of mutual understanding.
Therefore, this conference should be considered as one of paramount importance.
We express our hope that it will pinpoint the right values to help solve the mentioned problems.
I, once again, greet everybody present here and wish you fruitful and successful work.
Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia