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Meadville Lombard hosts scholars from Azerbaijan

Pictured from left: Lee Barker, Pasha Guluzade, Marty Atherton, Nana Otomo, Kayoko Kizuka, Madeleine Robins, and Anar Gafarov.    Pasha and Anar were recipients of the Atherton Scholarship and traveled from Azerbaijan. Nana and Kayoko traveled from Japan

Meadville Lombard has been able to host visiting international scholars during summer intensives for the second year in a row due to a generous gift provided by Martha Atherton.  Atherton’s gift was designed to help Meadville Lombard students gain a larger global understanding through their interaction with religious leaders from other nations. This year, we hosted two scholars from Azerbaijan, Anar Gafarov and Pasha Guluzade. Both offered a Muslim perspective to the classes they took this summer—Liberal Theology and Spiritual Journeys.

Azerbaijan has a rich cultural and religious heritage dating back to antiquity.  After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Azerbaijan became its own country and created a constitution that ensured religious freedom for all its citizens.  Currently, around 90 percent of the population is Muslim.  Although Unitarian Universalism is not yet found in Azerbaijan, the principles of our liberal religion still apply.  Creating and engaging in interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue is an integral part of liberal theology.

Hailing from Baku, Azerbaijan, Anar Gafarov, PhD is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Law, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences. Pasha Guluzade, is a magister in the field of philosophy at Baku State University. Both volunteer with the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences. The Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences hosts seminars and conferences about different fields in science, philosophy, medicine, psychology, and sociology. The organization works in cooperation with both regional and international universities. They help to send students to universities outside Azerbaijan to obtain masters and doctorate degrees with the expectation that they will come home to Azerbaijan and share their knowledge and  contribute to developing their country.

Anar began his journey to the U.S. in 2011 with an invitation from the Library of Congress to present at the Universalist Church in Dallas. While there, Anar bonded with his host family, Myra and Darwin Smith, who invited him to return to the U.S. Anar, in turn, nominated Pasha to join him on his Meadville Lombard journey.

Pasha and Anar began and ended their trip with Myra and Darwin Smith, starting at their home in North Carolina where Pasha and Anar adjusted to the U.S. and read texts to prepare for their summer classes at Meadville. At the conclusion of the classes, the Smiths joined Anar and Pasha in Chicago and took them sightseeing, to a musical, and to First Unitarian Church of Chicago for Sunday worship services.