April 19, 2006

The international conference entitled "Azerbaijan: Past and Present in the Dialogue of Civilizations"

The international conference entitled "Azerbaijan: Past and Present in the Dialogue of Civilizations" commenced April 19 at the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.

President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva opened the conference.

Speech by Mehriban Aliyeva:

Dear ladies and gentlemen, dear guests!

I cordially greet at Heydar Aliyev Foundation all participants of the international conference held on the theme of past and present in the dialogue of civilizations. I express my best wishes to our guests representing Latin Culture Academy and come from foreign countries and I am confident the cooperation commenced today with Heydar Aliyev Foundation will be more effective in future. I welcome all the reps, public figures, reps of different organizations representing the Republic of Azerbaijan in the conference. Doors of our Foundation are always open to all initiatives, proposals, projects able to represent Azerbaijan in the world union in a worthy manner. I wish health, happiness and success to all the participants of the conference.

The symbol of Latin Culture Academy reminded each of us the Azerbaijani pomegranate. This is flower of pomegranate and seeing that we remember Azerbaijani pomegranate. Pomegranate is one of the most beautiful gifts of Azerbaijani land and possesses very big place in our stories, eposes, songs. According to Prophet Mohammad the pomegranate is a fruit able to free people from the hatred. According to another legend, pomegranate is a wealth brought from the sky by Prophet Jesus. One of the three specially distinguished gifts in Buddhism is pomegranate. Pomegranate is considered fruit of life tree in a number of ancient cultural traditions. Today we can say the pomegranate symbolizes the same origin of various cultures worldwide.

Dear friends, Latin Culture Academy was established in 2000 to protect the cultural legacy of Latin-origin countries. At the same time in reply to complicated political processes ongoing worldwide this academy has been holding conferences titled 'Latin world and Islam world'. This initiative welcomed by all the Muslim world shows the great importance of the concrete dialog. Talking today of the past of the dialog among civilizations we should emphasize that the first successor of ancient and very rich Greco-Roman civilization was just East. In this era that entered the history as Muslim renaissance the most advanced, progressive ideas were protected and developed in Muslim countries. This heritage richened with works of eastern scholars and philosophers was once again given back to Europe in Middle Ages. The role of the entire East, Muslim world in protection of this legacy is invaluable.

We connect realization of the conference just in Baku in 2006 with the very positive experience our country possesses in field of dialog among civilizations. Indeed, our country located on the great Silk Road has been known for centuries as the place possessing high-level tolerance and junction of different cultures. This is our past we feel honor for and I believe Azerbaijan will play its positive role in this field in future.

The mankind faces very complicated dilemma at the moment. This is political and scientific problem. Some of modern scientists talk of confrontation of civilizations and try to scientifically substantiate this. Some others consider our rich diversity is the biggest wealth of the universe. They support dialogue and we think the same. Concrete works should be done in every country to have such a dialogue real. We know very well that environment existing in the society, traditions are able to make people enemy or friend. I would like to underline education and culture that are one of most necessary factors in this direction. Today we should establish such an education system to be able to train a citizen able to live in the world in a worthy manner, devoted to humanism and peace ideas.

I would like to bring into attention of the conference participants that the big-scale project titled 'New school to new Azerbaijan' is being implemented by Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The first phase of the project aims strengthening of material and technical base of education. We build new schools and supply them with modern appliances. But this is just the beginning. Our supreme goal is to create the very modern education system in the country meeting the highest standards. We should never forget that children do not possess only different knowledge at schools, they at the same time are formed as a personality, system of basic values of them if formed. Being today loyal to traditions if we train the young generation in soul of tolerance, they will be ready tomorrow to the dialog among civilizations and cultures.

Every nation has its history, specificities, traditions, way. But the culture is likely one of the most important factors for the future of every nation. I mean this word in very wide sense. To me, science, language, education, art, even economic assets are part of culture. Nation respecting its history, traditions, culture should respect in the same way the different cultures, different history. Xenophobia, fascism, hatred to other nations - all these are very dangerous. I can say with pride that from this view Azerbaijan may be sample to the world as the country with the highest tolerance. This country, situated for centuries on the caravan routes, is able to establish relationship with reps of other religions and nations. There are mosque, synagogue, catholic and orthodox churches in our country at present. Representative of every nation living in our land is the Azerbaijani citizen with equal rights. There is tolerance and respect towards other religion. I think all these may be message to the whole world.

Dear participants of conference, realization of such event in our country is not accidental. Today Azerbaijan is the country integrating to the world union, containing cultures of East and West, Europe and Asia, much respecting the different mind. I believe results of this conference and experience gained will assist in future the dialog.

Once again I wish you health, and success to the conference and invite you to see the film 'Religious tolerance and mutual understanding in Azerbaijan'.