Jannah Scott

FROM BIAS TO THE BELOVED COMMUNITY: Multiculturalism as a key to harmony and peace

In this age of increasing diversity in the United States and abroad, the idea of how leaders can mitigate hate crimes and bias against diverse groups is of critical importance, both for present and future generations.

Baku International Multiculturalism Center, US was joined by Arizona Interfaith Movement, Phoenix College Christian Student Club and visiting religious scholars from Temple University’s Dialogue Institute. Seventeen nations were represented at this event, including Visiting Professor from Azerbaijan University of Languages, Dr. Malahat Veliyeva (featured in video).

Perspectives were shared on the topic of multiculturalism as a key to harmony and peace and state policies and practices from the U.S., Austria, Ethiopia and Azerbaijan were shared. Participants also engaged in facilitated conversation on tools and methods being employed or considered in their own community to mitigate the scourge of bias and move us closer to multiculturalism ideals.

Posted by Jannah Scott in BIMC-US Blog

From the Mouth of Babes: Around the World, Youth Tell the Story of Their Leaders

As an American, I have always believed that the health of a nation is based on the common aspirations and welfare of leaders and its children—the current and future generations. During my time as Deputy Director at the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, A Center of the White House, I witnessed the commitment of a nation’s leader to the health and wellbeing of its youth, on a micro level and on a global scale. Our work was very hands on and immediate; implementing interfaith dialogue through service and action as a direct intervention in places around the country and world that needed it the most. Many were in localities overwrought with violence and unrest. I learned that no matter the adversity faced, any nation’s approach to tolerance and reconciliation defines its future. Where leaders, youth and these values of tolerance and reconciliation intersect, the essential productivity and security of each and every country is defined.

In the United States today, we have a younger generation profoundly impacted by an ominous dialogue; the tone, topics and tenacity of hatred and divisiveness, coupled with an economy that is looking more and more like it is good for a few, not for the many.

Not so long ago, we had a very different approach, and we saw the emergence of a new generation, inspired by leadership and a message – that we can do better, and yes, there is hope to be found in this world. And with the inspiration of a new millennial generation, we saw many sectors of the economy begin to recover and many more people become civically engaged. Unfortunately, is seems as though we are on the precipice of losing that momentum.

During my time as a White House appointee, I searched the world for countries that were either struggling to find a measure of tolerance, or were strong examples that we Americans could look at as a hopeful indicator of what could be. Unfortunately, in my tenure, I saw more conflict and hatred than cooperation. As an example, in the Philippines, an aggressive anti-drug policy is cloaked in the vein of reconciliation however, the approach is misguided and profoundly intolerant, and has essentially turned the nation into a police state and has destroyed lives, families and entire communities. When a leader addresses a problem as critical as drugs without applying the calculus of peace, the outcome is far from ideal.

On the other hand, there are outlier nations, where leaders infuse their most precious resource – the youth – to dream big and aim high. Nations that signify hope. In recent years, I have come to get to know one such country – Azerbaijan, a nation located in the Caucasus region between Russia and Iran. I have traveled to Azerbaijan twice, to meet and connect with various faith communities, youth groups, organizations and the general public. There I found a people that have, as part of their ethos, strong interfaith tolerance and cultural integration. It is a country that is majority-Muslim, yet with a government that is uniquely secular, and this country has been hailed as a beacon of hope, tolerance and a model for healthy reconciliation.

It was not always this way. Azerbaijan is a nation that has definitely endured hardship. When Azerbaijan had just gained its independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, its neighbor Armenia, backed by those who did not wish to see Azerbaijan independent and free, invaded around 20% of its sovereign territory, expelling around 1 million Azerbaijanis from their homes and lands. This internationally recognized illegal occupation continues to this day, which does not allow the Azerbaijani refugees to return to their homes.

Despite these huge challenges however Azerbaijan is also a nation that has risen above the tide of adversity, time and time again. One need only visit to understand the ingredients for success that Azerbaijan has been working with. It’s a small country in a troubled region, with a strong economy, an incomparable literacy rate (99%), and a remarkably hopeful youth. It’s a nation that has approximately 1 million refugees, but has never asked another nation to take care of its own. It’s a nation with a leader that is the embodiment of humility, hard work, and a healthy approach to reconciliation. Some mainstream media have often portrayed Azerbaijan with certain bias, and yes, the country has had its growing pains, but the actual experience of seeing Christians, Jews and Muslims of all ages, living peacefully side by side and praying together is far more informative than propaganda.

There are places where leadership serves the next generation; where education, freedom of faith, opportunity and economic strength abound. And there are many places where this is far from the case. But the ones that are making it work serve as an example to the rest of the world. We must ask ourselves: what can we learn from those leaders in nations, such as Azerbaijan, that we can apply to our own standards for leaders and goals for our younger generations? And what can we learn from those nations that do not achieve this, and do not approach adversity or opportunity with health or humility? For nations that have shifted under new leadership from a place of hope to a place of hardship and isolation, how can we draw lines in our own sand and assure something better?

The answer, I believe, is in repentance, restoration and reconciliation. In short, we must turn away from (repent) the bitter divisiveness to show the next generation a better way; we must restore the dignity and civility to the tone of dialogue and discourse; and we must reconcile ourselves and each other to the truth that what we do today has the ability to affect many generations after us—for good or for evil. Let’s all take a deep breath and think about the model we show and the legacy we want to leave our youth: maybe we can find glimpses of that in the nation of Azerbaijan.

 

Posted by Jannah Scott in BIMC-US Blog

Baku Trip Reflections

Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem…. In the name of God most gracious, most merciful—These are the words spoken over the loudspeaker of the Qatar Airways jumbo jet as we take off from Los Angeles to Doha. And it is in the name of the Most High God, and my savior JESUS that I go– A sixteen-hour flight on the way to Baku via Doha. In those 16 hours, the Lord ministered His everlasting LOVE to me and set me on a course that would change the course of my life and His-story in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is a country in the South Caucasus region, situated at the crossroads of Southwest Asia and Southeastern Europe. It is part of the ancient Mesopotamia, and the site of ancient Antiquities. It is bound by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. proclaimed its independence in 1918 and became the first democratic state in the Muslim orient world. But after only 2 years of independence, the country was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1920.

The modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence on 30 August 1991, prior to the official dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. In September 1991, the Armenian majority separated from the rest of the country to form the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. However, this region, now under conflict, is internationally recognized as still part of Azerbaijan. Much death, dissonance and conflict among Armenians and Azerbaijanis has resulted because of this ongoing conflict.

I was there for The Fourth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, hosted by the Government of Azerbaijan in partnership with the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), FIAT, Chevron and others, to reason together about effective responses to challenges facing human security, (massive migration, violent extremism and conflicts). My heart’s desire is to see Jesus, who IS the GOSPEL—spirit of love, unity, reconciliation and peace—raised up over that region because this nation is in a particularly strategic place and space in time.

Strategic because:

  • RESOURCES FOR THE GOSPEL: The country stands at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Asia and is being positioned globally as a key economic force because of strategic oil reserves that could fuel the energy needs of Europe and some of the US. (Proverbs 13:22)
  • ROOM FOR THE GOSPEL: The nation does not declare an official religion and all major political forces in the country are secularist. Yet, the government chooses to actively fund houses of worship, including Orthodox Christian churches and Jewish synagogues (Isa 45:13)
  • RIPE FOR THE GOSPEL: The majority of the population are of a Shiite Muslim background. Most however, do not actively practice any religion, and the country has been seen to be one of the most irreligious countries in the Muslim world. Yet, the people are some of the most loving people you would ever want to meet. (Jeremiah 24:7)

Thanks to all the intercessors who prayed for me as I traveled there. God not only showed me His favor by covering me with peace, safety and security in one of the most volatile regions of the world—but He also gave me favor with people from all walks of life, as expressed by their love, generous greetings and desires to stay connected.

  • The President, Ilham Aliyev
  • Children of Azerbaijan
  • Youth and College Students
  • Custodial Staff of the conference center
  • The Ambassador of Malaysia to Azerbaijan
  • Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—representing all 57 Muslim countries in the world
  • The First Lady of Ethiopia
  • Head of the Azerbaijani Council of Rabbis
  • Deputy Minister from South Sudan
  • Head of the Ancient Caucasus Albanian Christian Church
  • …..and so many more

A great door of relationship has been opened with this nation, and more details will be shared in the coming months.

 

Posted by Jannah Scott in BIMC-US Blog