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New Religious Freedom Initiative Launched in Georgia

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2005
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      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
      their faith.

      Dr. John Graz, IRLA secretary-general, chaired the meeting and gave a
      report about IRLA activities and the state of religious freedom in
      the world.

      "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
      deny it."

      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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