On May 30, 2015, over 800 Angelenos joined to celebrate an evening of music and intercultural advancement, held by Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Los Angeles and hosted at the Los Angeles Stake Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This unique event, titled “Musical Celebration of Tolerance and Interfaith Harmony,” celebrated Azerbaijan’s Republic Day and highlighted the country’s long-standing history of interfaith and multicultural harmony.
Speaking at the event, the Consul General of Azerbaijan Nasimi Aghayev expressed his gratitude to the Los Angeles Stake Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for hosting such a meaningful and historic event. The Consul General mentioned that Azerbaijani people’s ancient traditions of tolerance were the guiding principles of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-20), which was the first secular democracy in the Muslim world, and which created a multi-ethnic and inclusive parliament and government. Consul General Aghayev stressed that under the astute leadership of President Ilham Aliyev these traditions of interfaith harmony have become consistent government policy, as a result of which all religions and ethnicities continue to leave in mutual acceptance, dignity and respect in Azerbaijan. The Consul General noted that in these turbulent times of interreligious confrontations, as well as in the face of rising extremism, radicalism and xenophobia in different parts of the world, Azerbaijan is setting a great example for many others with its model of ethnic and religious tolerance.
In his remarks, Dr Steven Rudd, President of the Los Angeles Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, highlighted the importance of interfaith and intercultural dialogue in the world, and praised in this vein the holding of such a meaningful event by Azerbaijan at his Church. He stressed that such interfaith encounters and engagements contribute significantly to mutual understanding and respect among people of different beliefs and cultures.
Speaking afterwards, Cary Lerman, who is the President of the Men’s Club of Sinai Temple Synagogue, and one of the distinguished members of the Jewish community of Los Angeles, noted that today Azerbaijan is representing a great model of inclusion for the world that is facing so many challenges of radicalism and extremism. Mentioning his recent trip to Azerbaijan, Cary Lerman stressed the rapid development of the country, especially the strengthening of the traditions of tolerance. Highlighting the fact that the Jews have lived in peace and dignity in Azerbaijan without any persecutions or discrimination for centuries, Cary Lerman specifically mentioned the story of Albert Agarunov, an Azerbaijani Jew, who was killed in the battle defending Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity during the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Lerman said in this regard that the fact that the Government of a majority-Muslim nation of Azerbaijan awarded Agarunov – a Jew – with the title of Azerbaijan’s National Hero, which is the highest honor of the country, is quite telling.
The event continued with a concert program. The concert featured renowned Azerbaijani organist Jamila Javadova-Spitzberg, Turkish opera singer Oya Ergun and pianist Cem Oslu, who master-fully performed various works of Classical Azerbaijani and Western European composers. Their performances were received by the audience with standing ovations.
In conclusion, the guests were treated to delicious Azerbaijani food.