Georgia – the Meanders of Religious Freedom

Georgian Baptist Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze (on the left)

Nova Research Centre announced a few days ago a real breakthrough in terms of religious freedom in Georgia, where a new very liberal law has just been passed, with an important contribution of the hierarchy of the little Baptist Church in that country.. The blog post explains:

Initial drafts limited the freedoms to just five groups, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Evangelical Baptist church of Georgia, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jewish and Muslim communities of Georgia, in addition to the special status still accorded the Orthodox Church of Georgia. The Baptist Archbishop in Georgia, Malkhaz Songulashvili, reports that following the release of the first draft, Bishop Rusudan Gotziridze (Baptist), lobbied the parliament and requested that the legislation should be extended to all religious groups in Georgia. The draft was subsequently amended to meet this request. A press release from the Embassy of Georgia in London specifically refers to Evangelicals being granted the same freedoms.

Yet, things is Georgia are never simple. Thus, after I have shared on Facebook the link to this article, a friend in  Armenia added the following comment:

Supporters of Georgian Orthodox Church have launched massive protests instigated by the patriarch and several people representing different denominations and ethnic minorities have been severely bitten. This is the outcome of insinuations by politicians insisting that there will be drastic outcomes, including threats for national security and territorial integrity of Georgia. Expect more violence.

Intrigued by this information, I have asked for clarification and I share here with you the response, after I have received  permission (it was explained that what was shared with me is published on the website of the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate. Here it is:

Dear Danut,
The situation was extremely tensed until the last evening. I think we have looked into eyes of Religious Conflict in georgia. My orthodox friends have been calling me to ask not to go out in the street for a few days.
Yesterday there was special meeting of the Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church. They have worked for 5 hours and the their supporters have been gathering outside the patriarchate. But the document they issued by 7-8 o’clock in the evening completely changed the situation. The letter to the government has three main points:
  • The government must consult with the patriarchate in the future when they make decisions concerning religion.
  • The government must start negotiations with the other countries about the status of georgian orthodox church on their territory.
  • The patriarchate will start monitoring the Constitutional Agreement implementation details
Now it is absolutely peaceful and calm in Tbilisi.
Thank you for following the developments in Georgia. Please keep us in your prayers.

Let us pray for wisdom and peace in that beautiful country.





Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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