Tbilisi – Iranian Clergy Respond to the Call for Peace Prayer

„The Christian clergyman of Karbala calls Iranian clerics to help in bringing Peace to Nagorno-Karabakh“ says a Persian article, published by the Iranian Young Journalists Club. The author of the article, Pouria Soleimanzadeh, a young Persian journalist is reffering to Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili as „the Christian clergyman of Karbala“. Karbala is a religious title among Shia Muslims given to someone who has paricipated in the Arbaeen pilgimage from Najaf to Karbala (about 80 kilometers). In 2018 Bishop Malkhaz particimated in the Arbaeen walk/pilgrimage and hence his Shia religious title: Bishop Malkhaz of Karbala.

The lengthy article speaks in details about the initiative of Peace Cathedral to bring Azerbaijani and Armenian clergy to pray for peace between Armania ans Azerbaijan. In his interview with the Iranian journalist Bishop Malkhaz called Irianian clergy to joing Peaec Cathedrao in prayer for peace.

Peace Cathedral has already received an assurance from some Iranian clergymen that they will be virtually joining the Peace Prayer at Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi every Saturday at 7 pm (Georgian Standard Time) until the war is over. Peace Cathedral has also received assurance of joining the Peace Prayer from its German, American, Israeli, Italian and British fiends. This includes clergy from Anglican, Old Anglo Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Yezidi, Armenian Protestant and Armenian Apostolic, Shia and Sunni Muslim, Jewish backgrounds.

Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi Hosts a Vigil for Peace and Reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan

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.“

Forum 18 Archive: KAZAKHSTAN: “A general unwillingness to properly protect human rights” – 25 February 2015

Forum 18 Archive: KAZAKHSTAN: “A general unwillingness to properly protect human rights” – 25 February 2015.

Kazakhstan pretends to be a modern democratic state, but it is, in fact, nothing less than a heavily cosmetised (post)communist dictatorship, where religious persecution is rampant.

If oil money would make countries civilised, the whole Middle East would look like the Garden of Eden. It obviously does not, not does Kazakhstan (or other similar ‘stan’s, like Azerbaijan, for instance).

Azerbaijan – Court Ruling Mandates Closure of Greater Grace Church

Azerbaijan map

On January 9th, Greater Grace Protestant Church in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku lost its final appeal against closure. This means that any further religious activity carried out by the church is now considered illegal according to the recent Supreme Court ruling. Unfortunately, those representing the congregation no longer have any more options available to further challenge this ruling through the court system. Continue reading “Azerbaijan – Court Ruling Mandates Closure of Greater Grace Church”

A Story from Azerbaijan – On God’s Goodness

Azerbaijan map

I submit to you an encouraging story from the Muslim context of Azerbaijan, that I have just received from an Azeri friend.

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I met an old gentlemen, a taksi driver the other day.  You know how you are persuaded by the Holy Spirit to share specifically with this or that person? It was one of those moments. I told him that God loves him and cares for his soul. He is an important man for God. I asked Him if he has ever heard about Christ. He gladly replied that he has. In fact when he was a kid in the village where he grew up there was a large stone in the shape of a Cross. Everyone, he says, knew what this stone represented. Its was the place where people got delivered and a place where people, regardless of their religion or believes would come to seek God. Continue reading “A Story from Azerbaijan – On God’s Goodness”

Trouble Ahead for Christians in Azerbaijan?

June 1, 2012

Azerbaijani President Ilham H. Aliyev will seek his third-consecutive re-election in October 2013. Seen by many as a dictator, the president of this Shi’a-majority nation began to lay the groundwork for the next election by restricting civil and political rights soon after he was re-elected in 2008. And now as the election is closer, he can be expected to further tighten the noose on freedoms.

Growing criticism by human rights groups notwithstanding, the former Soviet nation of 9.2 million people has increasingly shown signs of authoritarianism – from widespread corruption perpetuated by a lack of accountability and transparency to harassment of journalists, bloggers and opposition members with total impunity. And among the targets of the regime are non-traditional Protestant Christian groups. Continue reading “Trouble Ahead for Christians in Azerbaijan?”