A two-day international theoretical and practical conference called "Heydar Aliyev-Youth-Multiculturalism" has kicked off in Augsburg, Germany. An initiative of the Club of Young Friends of Azerbaijan, it is organized by the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism in partnership with the University of Augsburg. The conference marks the 94th birthday anniversary of Azerbaijan’s national leader Heydar Aliyev.
The conference was launched at Logen Haus exhibition hall with a photo exhibition called "Heydar Aliyev and Youth". Presentations made by the Club’s Co-chair, researcher fellow at Lithuanian Pedagogical University Salomeja Lukaite and student of the University of Athens Demetrios Asporoulys highlighted photos featuring life and activity of the great leader.
Head of the Department of German Studies at the University of Augsburg, Professor Alfred Wildfeuer highlighted the objective of the conference. "The main goal of this conference is to pay tribute to Heydar Aliyev at an international level.” “At the same time, it is aimed at promoting multiculturalism, tolerance and contributing to the establishment of peace through the efforts of Club`s members living in Europe, Asia and Americas," he said.
Azerbaijan`s State Adviser on Multinational, Multicultural and Religious Affairs, academician Kamal Abdullayev thanked the Club of Young Friends of Azerbaijan and the University of Augsburg for the organization of the international conference. "Today, Azerbaijani multiculturalism as a subject is taught in almost 20 universities of the world, one of which is the University of Augsburg,” he said.
“If today Azerbaijan is recognized as one of the world’s multiculturalism centers, this is the result of the fact that we know Augsburg well. The President of Azerbaijan declared 2016 in our country the "Year of Multiculturalism", and today this line has been made a state policy,” Abdullayev said, adding that the proclamation of 2017 as "The Year of Islamic Solidarity" in Azerbaijan is a logical continuation of multiculturalism.
“The foundation of multicultural harmony in Azerbaijan was laid by the great leader Heydar Aliyev. His ideas related to youth and multiculturalism are now developing and are considered to be very promising. The symbolic meaning of our meeting on May 10 is that today we are celebrating the birthday of the great leader. We express our gratitude to all our friends who contributed to the organization of this conference, for this wonderful initiative and deep respect for Heydar Aliyev. It is impossible to study Azerbaijan without referring to this great personality, his glorious and meaningful way of life. I think that, having organized this conference, we took the right path to understand Azerbaijan. Promoting Azerbaijan's multiculturalism in Augsburg, we are also promoting Augsburg in Azerbaijan. I wish you all success in this regard. During the conference, you will enjoy interesting meetings, presentations, reports on historical, literary and scientific topics. I believe that after this conference you will leave Augsburg with unforgettable impressions," he said.
Professor of the University of Augsburg Klaus Wolf said Germany has rich experience in the field of peaceful coexistence of various cultures, religions and ethnic groups. He described the conference as a significant event.
Salomeja Lukaite emphasized that six students who joined the project from Azerbaijan`s ADA University, Baku State University, the Academy of Public Administration under the President, Baku Islamic University, Azerbaijan State Economic University, Azerbaijan University of Architecture and Construction, as well as dozens of students – members of the Club of Young Friends of Azerbaijan from 17 universities of Greece, Lithuania, Russia, Indonesia, Estonia, Israel, USA, Portugal, Turkey, Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Germany, Georgia, Switzerland, Macedonia, Czech Republic, Romania and Ethiopia, participate in this event to share opinions and impressions about the Azerbaijani model of multiculturalism, tolerance in the country and the Azerbaijani government`s successful state policy in this regard.
Azerbaijani ambassador Germany Ramin Hasanov said national leader Heydar Aliyev played a crucial role in establishing Azerbaijan`s modern statehood, ensuring political stability and economic development in the country. “Laid by the national leader, the multiculturalism policy is now being successfully continued by President Ilham Aliyev, and it has contributed to the recognition of Azerbaijan as one of the multiculturalism centers in the world.”
After the introductory speeches, the conference featured a panel session on the topic "Heydar Aliyev and Azerbaijani Multiculturalism". Head of the department of international regional studies at the Ural Federal University, director of the Yekaterinburg branch of Baku International Center for Multiculturalism, Professor Alexander Nesterov and Dimitrios Asproulis chaired the session. Senior lecturer at Azerbaijan`s State Economic University, chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party`s Youth Wing Seymur Orujov delivered a report on the topic "Heydar Aliyev and Azerbaijani youth".
Head of the Dresden branch of the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism Birgit Weisgerber highlighted the activities of the branch. She emphasized that the first official branch of Baku International Center for Multiculturalism was inaugurated in Dresden: "The activities of the Dresden branch of the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism are very important in terms of acquainting Europe, in particular, German public, with Azerbaijani realities relating to multiculturalism."
Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations Gunduz Ismayilov delivered a report on the topic "Heydar Aliyev and Tolerance". He stressed that national leader Heydar Aliyev considered the policy of multiculturalism and tolerance as an integral part of the country's democratic development. “The great leader also considered the protection of the cultural and religious values of ethnic minorities living in Azerbaijan as an important principle of democracy – human rights and freedoms: "Heydar Aliyev always showed respect for non-Islamic religious communities living in Azerbaijan, always congratulated them on religious holidays, took care of their traditions and customs," he said.
Student of the University of Augsburg Silke Hoggün made a report on the topic "Azerbaijani Multiculturalism in Augsburg". The German student emphasized that the experience of Azerbaijan helps them better understand the internal ideological processes taking place in such a multiethnic environment as Azerbaijan.
The session then heard reports by Professor Alexander Nesterov on political sources of Azerbaijani multiculturalism in the 18th century, director of Azerbaijan National Library Karim Tairov titled "Heydar Aliyev and Multicultural Values", student of the Tallinn Linnamäe Russian Lyceum Irina Kovzanovich called "President Ilham Aliyev and Azerbaijani Multiculturalism".
Head of the religious community of Baku's Lutherans Vera Nesterova made a presentation on the theme "Interreligious Harmony: Lutheranism in Azerbaijan". She emphasized that all religions in Azerbaijan are treated with equal respect, and that President Ilham Aliyev pays constant attention to representatives of all confessions in the country.
Head of the Israel branch of the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism, acclaimed political scientist Arye Gut made a report titled “Azerbaijan as a model of tolerance and multiculturalism".
The conference then continued with panel discussions.
The second panel session of the conference was titled "Presentation of the Club of Young Friends of Azerbaijan".
It was moderated by member of the Board of the Club of Young Friends of Azerbaijan, US political analyst Peter Tase and student of the Portuguese University of Lusophone Joao Mestren. The session featured speeches by co-chairmen of the club Salomeja Lukaite and Dimitrios Asproulis. They highlighted the establishment and activity of the Club of Young Friends of Azerbaijan. The Club was established in 2016 as part of the 3rd International School of Multiculturalism entitled "Multiculturalism as a way of life in Azerbaijan: national and religious values". Co-organized by the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism and the Knowledge Fund under the President of Azerbaijan, the school involved more than 50 students from 16 countries.
The conference highlighted several reports, including "A new stage of dialogue between the Club of Young Friends of Azerbaijan and the world youth" by student of Ural Federal University of Russia Mariya Dzhaiani; "What will Islamic Games give Azerbaijan?" by student of ADA University Tokay Ahmadov; “Why I became a member of the Club of Young Friends of Azerbaijan" by student of Israel’s Ariel University Maayan Eliofson; “The Year of Islamic solidarity as a logical continuation of the Year of multiculturalism” by student of Baku Islamic University Ramil Ibrahimov; «Youngfriends.az website as a new communication platform" by Italian independent researcher Claudia Pasquale; “Activities and prospects of the Club of Young Friends of Azerbaijan in Poland" by student of Wroclaw University of Poland Agata Tarasevic.
After the discussions, conference participants met with representatives of religious communities of the synagogue, Church of St. Anne and the Bobingen Moslem mosque in Augsburg.