Raul Lowery Contreras: "The history of Christianity in Azerbaijan is as old as religion itself"
American journalist, author of the books "The Armenian Lobby and US Foreign Policy" and "Murder in the Mountains: War Crime in Khojaly and the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict" Raul Lowery Contreras talks about religious tolerance in Azerbaijan
"The history of Christianity in Azerbaijan is as old as religion itself. The very first church in the Caucasus was built in Azerbaijan in the 1st century by Bartholomew, one of the apostles of Jesus. In 313, Caucasian Albania, the ancestral home of the Azerbaijani people, became one of the first Christian states in the world. Today Along with Muslims, half a million Christians of all confessions, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Catholics, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses and followers of modern saints, continue to live freely and practice their faith in Azerbaijan, "Contreras said.
According to him, "many churches in Azerbaijan have been repaired and restored by the government of Azerbaijan at the expense of the state. And not only in Azerbaijan, but also outside the country. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation, headed by the First Vice-President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva, who is also a Goodwill Ambassador UNESCO, repaired cathedrals and churches in France, Bulgaria, Greece, Russia and other European countries, as well as catacombs in the Vatican. It was not for nothing that Pope Francis came to Baku in 2016. I was there and saw him. And he highly appreciated the exemplary model of interfaith tolerance in Azerbaijan and held Mass in the Catholic Church, built in the center of Baku on the territory provided by the President of Azerbaijan. "
Raul Lowery Contreras also said that "despite the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, more than 30 thousand ethnic Armenians continue to live peacefully in large cities of Azerbaijan, such as Baku, Ganja and others. In the center of Baku there is a beautiful Armenian church, repaired, restored and protected by the state. The church library contains 5,000 ancient Armenian books, perfectly preserved by the government of Azerbaijan as the cultural heritage of Armenia. The main religious figure of Armenia, Catholicos Garegin II, visited this church and prayed there in 2010, recognizing that the temple is in excellent condition. "