Orthodox Christians living in Azerbaijan celebrated the Holy Easter on Sunday.
On the night of April 23-24, churches across the country held services to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity. The faithful joined in festive processions at midnight, singing hymns and participating in a liturgy that lasted until morning.
In Baku, the Holy Myrrhbearers Cathedral also hosted a festive congregation with hundreds attending. Many congregants brought baskets filled with painted Easter eggs, meant to symbolize the empty tomb found by Jesus’ followers on the morning of the first Easter, along with kulich, a traditional bread prepared at Easter time. After the service, the baskets of eggs and kuliches were blessed by a priest.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev congratulated the country’s Orthodox Christian Community on the sacred holiday.
“Today Azerbaijan is a native land for everyone who lives here regardless of language, religion and ethnicity. Relations of friendship and fraternity between separate peoples and religions, which are based on mutual respect and trust, have been established in our country, which is reigned by a high culture of co-existence,” President Aliyev said in his address.
“Preservation and promotion of ethnocultural diversity, rich multicultural values and multi-century traditions of tolerance in our society is one of the key directions of our policy,” he added.
According to the president, Azerbaijan is a rare country exhibiting exemplary relations between the state and religion.
“In these conditions of national and moral unity, our Christian countrymen experience their customs and traditions and religious beliefs, as well as their language and culture, and decently fulfil their civil duties to take a close part in all the fields of our political, social and social and cultural life,” President Aliyev stressed.
Promoting a multi-religious co-existence has been a key part of Baku’s strategy to demonstrate moderation, tolerance, and diversity in a country of 10 million, where nearly 97 percent are Muslim.
Three percent of Azerbaijan’s population are Christian; less than 0.2 percent are Jews, and 0.2 percent are either unaffiliated with any religion or belong to minority religious groups. Currently, more than 2,000 mosques, 14 churches, and seven synagogues are operating across the Caspian region country.
Azerbaijan’s exemplary religious tolerance made it possible to achieve a peaceful co-existence between the country’s Muslim majority and more than 16,000 Jews and over 250,000 Christians living in the country.
Russian Orthodox comprises the majority of the country’s Christian Community, with 120,000 believers. Currently, there are seven Orthodox Christian churches in Azerbaijan.
President Aliyev has recently signed an order to allocate financial aid of 350,000 manats ($205,000) to the Orthodox Christian Community of Azerbaijan. The country’s government has been restoring the Orthodox Christian heritage in the territories liberated from the Armenian occupation in 2020, including the Gazanchi church in the city of Shusha.