Inter-faith vigil for peace at Baptist Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi, Georgia
On the 18th day since the beginning of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Peace Cathedral hosted an interfaith vigil for peace in the Caucasus. Along with clergy from various confessions, the vigil was attended by Azerbaijani and Armenian clergy and their faithful.
Scripture readings were read out from the Gospel and the Quran. Similarly, prayers for peace were offered in the Georgian, Armenian, Yezidi and Arabic languages. The service was led by Malkhaz Songulashvili, the Metropolitan Bishop of Tbilisi, being assisted by Sheikh Mirtag Asadov and Father Narek Kushian, representing Azerbaijani and Armenian communities.
Armenian and Azeri clergy thanked Peace Cathedral for its peaceful initiative. The event was marked by the spirit of peace and reconciliation. The Armenian and Azeri clergy exchanged words of hope for a peaceful future.
At the end of the vigil, after having consultation among Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Yezidi and Georgian clergy, the following statement was made:
„We, the Yezidi, Muslim and Christian clergy gathered at the Peace Cathedral agreed to commit ourselves to observe vigils for peace and reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan every week until the war is over. The vigil will be held at Peace Cathedral every Saturday at 19:00.
At the same time, we call all churches, synagogues, mosques, temples to offer prayers for peace and reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan every Saturday at 19:00 (Tbilisi time) until the war is over. The faithful and clergy should feel free to offer their prayers either publicly or privately upon their convenience. Peace and reconciliation shall not have any other alternatives.“
„I did not expect neither such an attendance nor such sincerity from today’s vigil. I think the participation of the Yezidi Akhtiar of Georgia, Dimitri Pirbari, has also balanced the service and added entirely different dimensions to it,“ said Bishop Rusudan Gotziridze after the vigil.
Bishop Ilia Osephashvili of East Georgia was also pleased with the vigil:
„It was a very moving event.’ He wrote, „Perhaps it was crucial to hold the vigil… When Azerbaijanis came and there was no sign of Armenians, I got bed feelings, but I was mistaken. Armenian clergy came to Peace Cathedral along with a group of young people.
Nano Saralishvili, a young student of Ilia State University, who was supposed to act as a designated photographer for the vigil was moved by the service. „The service was immensely emotional. It was very simple and plain. Because of this, it was very natural. I was intending to take pictures, but I had such a feeling that I would somehow distort the sense of sacred, therefore I took only two photos at the end of the service,“ She maintained.
„Even though all of us had come with certain position over the war [in the Caucasus] the encounter in the Cathedral, because of sincere nature of the meeting, took the participants beyond the domain of territorial claims and desire for ownership. It reminded all of us that we are human beings, we are living creatures, who suffer pain, who are scared, who are hoping, who are believing and what’s more: we all want to see the war end.“ Wrote Giga Beriashvili, a Student at Ilia State University and a translator. In his view „This is what happened today … today we took one big step forward in our own humanity.“ Mattew Saralishvili, another Student from Ilia State University and a young writer would not hide his excitement over the service: „It was indeed an honest and warm meeting. ‘I am delighted to have friends like you with whom we can pray together (Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis),’ said Father Narek Kushian looking at Bishop Malkhaz and Sheikh Mirtag. It seems there is no other place where these people can pray together for peace. I was very moved to hear these words. I would like to believe that it will be possible to pray together not only at the Peace Cathedral but everywhere in this region.“