Republic of Georgia: New Religious Freedom Initiative Launched


Dr Graz (center) with other participants at the launch

Tbilisi, Georgia… In a breakthrough for religious freedom, a new organization dedicated to promoting this fundamental human right was launched October 23. 

Following an initiative by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), leaders of different faith communities, representatives Human Rights organizations, and government officials, met to inaugurate the Georgian Religious Liberty Association. The event was covered by the national TV and included the participation of two representatives of the Patriarchate of Georgia and the government Ombudsman Beka Mindiashvili. 

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.
IRLA Secretary General Dr. John Graz, chaired the meeting and gave a report about the 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."

According to the participants, religious freedom in Georgia has improved since the detention of religious extremists and the election of a new government. However religious freedom challenges are still a daily reality. Georgia has no religious law, and the Orthodox Patriarch is often viewed as the most important authority in the country. During his visit Dr. John 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. 

The 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. Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims are among the 21 members of the Board. [IRLA News]