President Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness,
It is with gratitude that I receive this distinguished award – the Order of Sheikh Ul Islam. I see it as recognition of Russia’s great contribution towards establishing good relations between the different religions and between the followers of the most diverse faiths. I see it as recognition for Russia’s contribution to promoting a dialogue between cultures and strengthening stability in the Trans-Caucasus region.
The Russian Federation is a secular state, but throughout the ages it has been home to people of many different ethnic groups and faiths, who live in harmony together and respect each other’s convictions.
We in Russia honour and follow the traditions of respect and tolerance for people of the most diverse religious convictions and views. We see this as extremely important not just in our internal political affairs but also on the international stage. This is especially true when we are talking about regions where attempts are sometimes made to use the complex and sometimes dramatic burden of historical legacy as an instrument for stirring up religious and interethnic conflict.
In this respect we greatly value the efforts of the Azerbaijani leadership and the hard work of Muslim leaders to create an atmosphere of cooperation between the religions in the region. We value the firm stand taken with regard to religious extremism and international terrorism.
As you know, Russia is working actively on this issue today with its partners on the international stage, including in many Muslim countries and within the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, to which Russia was unanimously admitted as a permanent observer.
I think it is important in this modern world to strengthen the common moral and spiritual values that all religions share. Belief in goodness and justice, compassion and peace are basic tenets of all the world’s great religions. We support in every way policies that aim at reinforcing dialogue between peoples and religions.
In this respect I welcome the initiative of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexii II, to hold the World Summit of Religious Leaders in Moscow on July 4–5.
As we know, all the religions call on their followers to seek mutual understanding with the followers of other religions, and the Holy Koran directly appeals to believers to “cooperate in goodness and piety and not to help in evil and hostility”.
We think that any insults against the feelings of believers are unacceptable and go against fundamental rights. Very sensitive issues such as these call for extreme caution. It is important to think ahead and be able to foresee the serious consequences that even just carelessly spoken words could have. That is not to mention the state authorities, who must be even more careful and responsible in the way they work.
This was something well understood by Azerbaijan’s recognised national leader, Heydar Aliyev. Thanks to his efforts the principle of religious tolerance remained a cornerstone of Azerbaijan’s policy even during the most troubled times.
I think that this firm commitment and faithfulness to this and other principles laid down by Heydar Aliyev are to a considerable extent part of the foundation that is helping Azerbaijan develop effectively today and move forward.
In conclusion I would once again like to say that the key to resolving many of the problems in the region lies precisely in the ability to develop a dialogue between religions, a successful dialogue based on the immense potential for peace that religion has.
We therefore hope very much for the help of prominent representatives of the Muslim clergy and the representatives of other religions working and living in Azerbaijan and in the region in general. We hope very much for help in resolving the issues facing the peoples of this region.