Kakhaber Gogotishvili: "Azerbaijani state has substantially helped Georgian Orthodox Church"
The head of the delegation of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC), bishop Dmitry, read out the address by the head of the GOC Ilia II with the words of gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev at the conference titled 'Traditions of religious tolerance in the Caucasus and Azerbaijan's model of multiculturalism' in Baku. The deputy chairman of the External Relations Department of the Georgian Orthodox Church, archpriest Kakhaber Gogotishvili, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the cooperation between the two neighboring countries in the religious sphere.
- Father Kakhaber, how are the relations between Azerbaijan and the Georgian Orthodox Church developing?
- The head of our Church, Patriarch Ilia has always paid special attention to relations with Muslim countries and with Azerbaijan in the first place. This is the long-term strategy of the church, and the special role in its success was played by Sheikh Haji Allahshukur Hummat Pashazade - a recognized and respected spiritual leader of Azerbaijani Muslims. For many years, Azerbaijan's Sheikh and Georgia's Patriarch have close friendly relations. Sheikh often invited His Holiness Patriarch to Azerbaijan, including for visiting conferences on religious topics. He has repeatedly visited Georgia. In addition, other Muslim leaders have also visited Georgia on the recommendation of the Sheikh. We can rightfully speak on a joint peacemaking movement, headed by Sheikh Pashazade and Patriarch Ilia. It is also important to take into account relations with the Muslim leaders in other countries, including Iran. I would call these relations friendly, cultural and civilized.
- The inter-religious cooperation is considered in the context of interaction between "monotheistic religions"? I remember, the Patriarch spoke about this during the Sheikh's visit to Tbilisi ...
- We are committed to a peaceful and sincere cooperation with the Muslim religion and other religious faiths, primarily in peacekeeping and cultural spheres. With the exception of some unfortunate incidents, there have never been any persecution of the members of other religions in Georgia - neither Christian nor Muslim.
We are actively cooperating with Azerbaijan during international seminars and conferences. There is a huge range of issues, which we can discuss beyond the religious theme - culture, peacemaking, inter-civilization dialogue and communication between people. Together with Azerbaijani colleagues, we are looking for a peaceful settlement of all the conflicts in our region and around the world.
The cooperation of religious organizations is of great importance for strengthening and development of bilateral relations. Azerbaijanis live in Georgia and Georgians live in Azerbaijan. This is an important aspect of cooperation for the spiritual guidance and the satisfaction of spiritual needs of Christians and Muslims in both countries, the careful preservation of their identity. Not only ethnic, but also religious.
- How are the relations between the religious leaders developing?
Many years ago, Patriarch Ilia and Sheikh Allahshukur Pashazade met and expressed a desire to develop a multilateral cooperation. Their relations are of friendly character. The Sheikh always warmly speaks of our patriarch. There had been no cases in which the spiritual leader of Azerbaijan has not congratulated our Patriarch with remarkable days or public holidays. And vice versa. We appreciate the significant assistance, which has been provided by the Georgian Orthodox Church to Azerbaijan, in particular, by SOCAR. We see the Sheikh's friendly participation in this. But the most important thing is that the friendship of religious leaders and cooperation of religious denominations have a positive impact on the relations of peoples and our two friendly countries.