Baku hosted the Islamic Solidarity Year Forum on Dialogue Between Religions and Cultures on December 21. The forum held at the Heydar Aliyev Center brought together 150 religious scholars from 40 countries. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev addressed the forum with welcoming remarks: 
 
“Azerbaijan has been making a major contribution into strengthening Islamic solidarity. This is one of our priorities… Peace and mutual understanding that underpin our religious domain, Muslim unity, high-level attention to relations between religions have made our country stronger…  In Azerbaijan, representatives of all religions enjoy the same rights. People of any ethnic group or faith live in Azerbaijan as one family – there has never been and never will be any discrimination. This is a major achievement for us,” he said.
 
Ilham Aliyev explained why 2017 was declared as the year of multiculturalism. “Multiculturalism is a state policy and a way of life in our country. People of all religions living in Azerbaijan will subscribe to this statement. There is no alternative to multiculturalism – dangerous trends facing the entire world like Islamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism can hardly be called alternatives. Azerbaijan is a role model for the world in terms of effective multiculturalism. We often hear pessimistic voices, including at the top level, about the prospects of multiculturalism. Despite it, we must take action to maintain and preserve those lofty values. Multiculturalism must become routine in any country,” the president said.
 
During his speech at the Forum, Russia – Islamic World Group Coordinator H.E. Veniamin Popov pointed out that Azerbaijan’s efforts and the success of the conference are evidence of the major contribution that the country makes into promoting multiculturalism and ensuring peace and accord between religious groups.
 
“The world is going through an extremely challenging stage, with new flashpoints on the horizon, old crises growing more complicated, and new challenges facing humanity. Under the circumstances, Russia has been doing its utmost in upholding global security. It has taken an active part in shaping a positive unifying international agenda, putting forward practical initiatives to resolve pressing international issues. The Russia – Islamic World strategic vision group is a public organization that brings together representatives from almost 30 Muslim states. Set up in 2006, it was initially led by eminent politician Evgeny Primakov. Following his death, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov to chair the organization. We are happy that Samed Kurbanov, from Azerbaijan, joined us this year,” said Popov.
 
Popov also said that negotiations are underway to shoot a biopic about the founder of modern Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, one of the most outstanding Soviet leaders.
 
In his statement, Popov also praised the efforts of sheikh Pashadze as one of the most determined and efficient champions of dialogue between religions.