New Religious Freedom Initiative Launched in Georgia
- 2005.11.01 ANN: New Religious Freedom Initiative Launched in Georgia
Leaders from various segments of Georgian society meet to inaugurate
the country's first organization for religious liberty.
In a breakthrough for religious freedom in Georgia, a new
organization dedicated to promoting this fundamental human right was
launched Oct. 23.
Following an initiative by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the
International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), leaders of
various faith communities, representatives of human rights
organizations, and government officials met to inaugurate the
Georgian Religious Liberty Association. The event was covered by
national television and included the participation of two
representatives of the Patriarchate of Georgia and government
Ombudsman Beka Mindiashvili.
A former Soviet state, the Republic of Georgia is a nation of 4.7
million people. It is located just above Turkey and below Russia and
shares a border with Armenia and Azerbaijan. An estimated 84 percent
of the population is Georgian Orthodox, another 9.9 percent Muslim,
and 3.8 percent are Armenian-Gregorian Christian.
Religious freedom in Georgia has improved since the detention of
religious extremists and the election of a new government, conference
participants were told. At the same time, religious freedom
challenges are still a daily reality. Georgia has no religious
freedom law, and the Orthodox Patriarch is often viewed as the most
important authority in the country.
Archpriest Basil Kobakhide from the Georgian Orthodox Church pleaded
for the protection of religious minorities, a very real issue in the
country where smaller faith communities are often attacked by the
media and experience difficulties in building churches and sharing
Dr. John Graz, IRLA secretary-general, chaired the meeting and gave a
report about IRLA activities and the state of religious freedom in
"Religious freedom does not threaten any religion or church but is a
factor of peace and stability in society," said Graz. "Religious
difference is unavoidable in our global world and it is better to
deal with this issue in the context of promoting human rights than to
During his visit, Dr. Graz met several religious leaders and human
rights defenders, along with Viktor Vitko and Pavel I. Liberanski who
represented the regional organization of IRLA in Euro-Asia.
Participants elected as president Dr. Vladimir Gokabhidze, director
of the Center for the Study of Religious Issues. Seventh-day
Adventist Pastor Grigol G. Tsamalashvili was elected secretary-
general of the Georgian Religious Liberty Association. Orthodox,
Catholics, Protestants and Muslims are among the 21 board members.
Organized by members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and
chartered in 1893, the IRLA is a non-denominational organization,
established to promote and defend religious freedom for all groups
and people around the world.
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