The US-based Christianity Today magazine has published an exclusive interview with head of Russian Orthodox Church in Baku Archbishop Alexander headlined “Azerbaijan Archbishop: Our holy mission is to keep peace.”
The article highlights the issues of establishing peace in the region after the end of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as calling for the promotion of a lasting peace in the region.
The author of the article Jayson Casper mentions that a trilateral statement on a complete ceasefire was signed last November, which ended the six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was able to return its internationally recognized territories, including the historic city of Shusha.
“Azerbaijanis returning to Aghdam, left in ruins by Armenian occupation for 25 years, will see for the first time the damage to their city. Its mosque was relabeled “Persian,” while 63 of Nagorno-Karabakh’s 67 mosques were razed to the ground. Azerbaijan, having liberated the territories, pledged to preserve Christian religious monuments,” Archbishop Alexander says.
“Meanwhile, members of Azerbaijan’s Christian Udi minority were dispatched to hold services in the ninth-century Khudavang Monastery. The Udi are related to the Caucasian Albanian Christians, assimilated into other ethnic groups a thousand years ago. But Azerbaijan maintains the churches of the region are actually Albanian, and not Armenian in origin,” the article mentions.
“Of Azerbaijan’s population of 10 million, 96 percent are Muslim. Alexander’s Russian Orthodox represent two-thirds of Christians, while thousands of Jews live in the country,” the author says.
“Thirty years ago, many Armenians lived here in Azerbaijan, and they had their own churches where they could pray. Peoples in the same geographical areas have to find ways to live together, and not focus on their differences. This is the main principle for how future relations between these two nations can be built. France, Germany, and Poland are an example. They endured many wars, but now they are all in one European Union.
Transportation networks can be built, helping Armenian development. Political, economic, and cultural areas of cooperation exist with the south Caucasus nation of Georgia. Azerbaijan has repeatedly invited Armenia into this network, with the one condition of returning the occupied territories,” Archbishop Alexander notes.
Rejecting the statements by Armenians that they are allegedly subjected to “genocide”, Archbishop Alexander says: “But when the word genocide is used, we should be very careful. We have very sad facts about the actions of Armenian forces on the territory of Azerbaijan. We have thousands of Azerbaijanis killed from the Armenian side, so to whom should we address the word genocide?
Azerbaijan has a high level of multicultural acceptance and preserves its religious monuments. The Armenian churches and libraries in Baku are kept safe. In the case of a peace agreement, these can be used again, as they should. This will also help the spiritual and religious reconciliation. Baku had a whole Armenian quarter in the Soviet era, living in better condition than other citizens,” the head of Russian Orthodox Church in Baku emphasizes.