The other day, at the Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Center, in Los Angeles, California, under the auspices of the Mr. Nasimi Aghayev, Azerbaijan Consul General, West Coast USA, and his dedicated staff, many gathered for an evening of ecumenicity.
All evening long you heard the words tolerance, interfaith, co-existence, and thou shall love your fellowman as you love yourself, or as the classic adage goes: “You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.”
The evening gave emphasis to the common salute that there is a place on earth that is a broadmindedness exemplary and it is Azerbaijan, a prototype of tolerance.
Nasimi Aghayev is a patriot. He knows his country’s history and he is a proud Azerbaijani who represents his country exceptionally well.
It was therefore perfectly expected that a country like Azerbaijan would hold an evening of ‘Interfaith tolerance Awards & Multi-Faith Commemoration’ in which three representatives of three faiths were acknowledged and awarded: Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez, by Gil Hurtado, Councilman of South Gate City; Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, by Deanna and Allen Alevy of the Alevy Family Foundation; Mahomed Akbar Khan by Chaplain Dov Cohen, National Chairman, Jewish War Veterans of the United States “End Homeless: Commission.”
The three Awardees believe that one has to live up to the call of God and act upon it. And that is what they do year in and year out, each one in his own way, each one amassing followers.
Azerbaijan knows its own intolerance. It is the Khojaly Massacre, the killing of at least 161 ethnic Azerbaijani civilians from the town of Khojaly, on 25-26 February 1992, by the ethnic Armenian armed forces, during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. The death toll claimed by Azerbaijani authorities is 613 civilians, including 106 women and 63 children. The event became the largest massacre in the course of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. During the evening the newly released docufilm, ‘Running From the Darkness,’ about the Khojaly massacre was screened.
Despite the nation’s grievance and suffering, due to the Khojaly massacre, Azerbaijan, a majority Moslem country, embraces the country’s three religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity equally and religious freedom is its fundamental foundation. During the centuries many found refuge in Azerbaijan when they ran away from persecution in their own countries.
I have not visited Azerbaijan but from what I hear from people who visited the country, not once, I tend to believe that there is much to learn from this country’s conduct. If we are to judge a country’s conscious and conscience by the way it treats its minorities, then Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijanis lead the way.