By | Editorial at Republic Underground
November 3, 2020
Pictured above, a historic Albanian church in Azerbaijan.
*A previous version of this article mistakenly posted a picture of a historic synagogue, which has been corrected in this version.
The following is an interview with special guest Robert Mobili, Chariman of the Albanian-Udi Christian religious community of Azerbaijan. Interviewers questions are in bold and responses are in plain text throughout.
Please describe what it is like to be Christian in Azerbaijan. How have average Christians been treated since the country’s establishment in the 1990s?
After Azerbaijan gained independence, churches were restored, communities were registered, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Albanian-Udi Church, the Catholic Church, and later all Christian denominations were registered. These communities took worship in their homes. There is an opportunity for independent activity. Christian communities in Israel (the Church of Jerusalem) helped restore church law. I was baptized there. Then the churches began to be restored. Part of the restoration was done by the Norwegian Humanitarian Organization. Today, during the pandemic and the state of war, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation restored the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the village of Nic, Gabala. There is a Christian village of Nic in Azerbaijan, just as there are Jews in the Red Village of Gabala. This example shows that different ethnic groups live in Azerbaijan.
Please name some of the churches that are presently active in Azerbaijan and describe the condition in which they are in. Are there Christian schools functioning in Azerbaijan too? Please explain.
There is a very ancient Albanian Church in Azerbaijan. This church is directly connected with Jerusalem. Apostol Muslim Eastern Church. The blessing of this church is connected with Jerusalem. There are more than 300 churches in Azerbaijan. The largest church in the Caucasus is located in Sheki, and some of these churches are in the occupied territories. Ganjasar and Agoghlani temples are located in the occupied territories. They have nothing to do with Armenian churches. These churches were built in accordance with the historical and religious foundations of the Albanian churches. Several of them were released from occupation. At the expense of those churches, Armenians invented a place of worship.
After the occupation of the Caucasus by Tsarist Russia, these churches and religious heritage were directly subordinated to the Armenian Church. As the religious heirs of the Albanian Church, we restore those historical truths in accordance with church law. The Azerbaijani people and the Muslim community support us the most in this work. I would like to emphasize the state support, the support of the State Committee fon Work with Diaspora, the State Committee on Religious Associations, the Ministry of Culture, non-governmental organizations, the Caucasian Muslims Office, and Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade.
Please describe how religious tolerance is engrained in Azerbaijani law and how Christians, as well as other faiths, have benefited from this.
I would like to emphasize that all Christians, Muslims, and Jews are united. We support each other on bad days. There is a Bible Society in Azerbaijan. I am the chairman of its presidium. Once a year, on November 16 or 17, we celebrate Bible Day and Tolerance Day. These holidays are celebrated by Muslims, Jews, and Christians together. Mr. President, once a year, his Foundation provides financial assistance to Christian communities living in Azerbaijan. This assistance is great support for the celebration of religious holidays, the restoration and preservation of religious sites in the country and abroad.
Please describe how Azerbaijani schools educate in favor of multiculturalism and religious tolerance, and how religious harmony is part of everyday life in Azerbaijan.
The subject of multiculturalism is taught in Azerbaijan. They invite religious leaders. I have participated a lot. Religious leaders are invited to educational institutions. Every year on September 15, religious leaders hold a multiculturalism class as a first lesson. Today, the subject of multiculturalism is taught in more than 30 countries. Israel is one of them.
Please describe how the fighting recently has affected Christians living in Azerbaijan. I heard that an Armenian Christian woman was injured during Armenia’s attacks upon Ganja. Please explain.
Motherland Karabakh is native to us, regardless of religion. Representatives of different nations take part in the battles, and this is our war. It is even more important for us. Because of the rich cultural heritage, the Albanian Church has been Armenianized, its elements and writings have been changed. Churches have been falsified. Today, in the true sense of the word, we have begun to expel the occupiers from the territory of Azerbaijan in the Great Patriotic War. Representatives of different nations are united in Azerbaijan as one fist, and Karabakh is a native for every citizen. Karabakh is Azerbaijan.
Please explain what Azerbaijani Christians think of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Our opinion is that we are not at war with the Armenian population. Independent activity … Today, Azerbaijan’s model of tolerance can be shown as a message to the Armenian community living in Karabakh. In a country where 96 percent of the population is Muslim, we, the Christian community, do not face any difficulties, we worship in our native homes, in our native language, we study in schools in our native language.