Georgia News

  • Religion Law Proposed
    Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi - Photo: Wikipedia / M. Konsek
    Pray that Georgia's government will reach a fair and sustainable solution.
    Photo: Wikipedia / M. Konsek (c)

    Despite assurances that freedom of religion is guaranteed, various statements from Georgia's ruling party, along with those from the State Agency for Religious Issues (SARI), indicate that a restrictive religion law may be in the works for the nation of Georgia. Many religious groups strongly oppose such legislation which would mandate government registration of their faith communities.

  • Proposed ''Insulting Religious Feelings'' Law Withdrawn

    In the Eurasian country of Georgia, parliamentary deputy Ioseb Jachvliani of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition withdrew a proposed law that he claimed would have imposed fines for an unclearly defined offense of "insulting religious feelings." In his letter to parliament, he stated that the law "needs to be refined."

    The Office of the Public Defender (ombudsperson) also called for the proposed law to be rejected, as it contravened 'freedom of expression' and the rule of law requirement that the legal consequences of actions should be predictable. It was further noted that the Constitutional Court has stated that "disapproval of views, values and ideas cannot serve as grounds for restricting freedom of expression."

    The need for 'freedom of expression' is clearly reflective of the tremendous challenges faced by Georgians during the rule of the former Soviet Union and the communists' strict anti-religious regime. In past years, people and communities not aligned with the former Soviet-controlled Georgian Orthodox Church have suffered many attacks for their non-complying beliefs and practices. Mobs opposing them have severely attacked and injured innocent people -- including Christian evangelicals -- destroying places of worship (such as ancient frescos in church interiors) and religious literature. Baptists, Catholics and Pentecostals were included in the attacks. Few of the perpetrators were ever brought to justice by the governing officials of the day.

    The situation in Georgia serves as a reminder for all Christians -- regardless of denominational affiliation or background -- to seriously heed God's greatest commandment, which has been clearly outlined by Jesus Himself in Mark 12:30-31: "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your shall love your neighbour as yourself." May the truth of the Gospel message be preached in all fullness throughout Georgia so many of its citizens will go beyond just a mere knowledge of the Lord nominally, but rather experience the reality of His abiding presence and the fulfillment of His greater purposes in their lives. For only then will the inhabitants of this historical land be truly blessed with His love, peace and the joy of united fellowship.

  • Evangelicals Face Harassment and Beatings in Georgia

    Evangelical believers in Georgia have been accustomed to attacks in recent years, often as a result of instigation from a defrocked Georgian Orthodox priest, Vasily Mkalavishvili.  After he was sentenced to six years in prison for his actions in February, the violence subsided.  According to press reports, however, harassment has picked up again this month against evangelical believers.  Pastor Nikolai Kalutsky reports that members of his congregation were blocked from attending services at his home on April 28 and then on May 12 and 13.  Some members were also beaten outside a subway station after the May 12 service.  Pastor Kalutsky credits extremists from the dominant Orthodox Church for the attacks. 

    Sozar SubariSozar SubariAccording to a report just received from Forum 18, Georgia's Constitutional Court ruled earlier today that these attacks have violated Pastor Kalutsky's rights to practice his faith freely.  The Liberty Institute, along with Georgia's Human Rights Ombudsperson, Sozar Subari, claims that an Orthodox priest, David Isakadze, is responsible for instigating the attacks.  Subari is pushing for criminal charges against Isakadze.  The priest has publicly denied any involvement.

    Forum 18 also reports on similar opposition to Pentecostal and Baptist congregations in other areas of Georgia.  In the village of Orsantia in Zugdidi district, the head of the village administration demanded to see a document giving a Pentecostal church the right to hold services.  No such official document exists in Georgia. Until such documents are produced, he warned them, all services were banned.  Baptist Pastor Levan Akhalmosulishvili also reported incidents of harassment from Orthodox mobs in at least two other villages.  He notes, however, that the harassment has been strictly verbal, saying, "In the past they used to beat us, but now they've been well trained to insult us but not to touch us."

    Since 2002, only the dominant Orthodox Church was legally registered with the government.  Despite opposition from the Orthodox Church, amendments were officially passed in late April allowing the registration of other religious groups should they so desire.  The amendments also removed the requirement for religious groups to be officially registered.  Despite these amendments, Forum 18 reported on May 24 that there has been little practical change as a result as religious minorities continue to be harassed.  Part of the reason may be a popular opposition to such groups in the country.  In a 2004 survey, nearly forty-seven percent of those surveyed supported the destruction of literature of religious minorities and only ten percent would defend the rights of religious minorities.

    Pray for that the country of Georgia will fully open up to religious freedom.  Pray for those believers facing ongoing harassment because of their faith.

  • Access to Church Blocked for Six Weeks
    Tbilisi, Georgia

    For the sixth week in a row, members of a Russian-language Pentecostal church in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi were blocked from entering a home on July 13 where the church has been meeting. Shouting abuses against Russians and "sectarians," a mob blockaded the home of Pastor Nikolai Kalutsky for three hours. According to the July 14 report from Forum 18, police prevented serious physical injuries, but they did nothing to remove the blockade. The protestors told Pastor Kalutsky that they were Orthodox and their purpose was to prevent non-Orthodox worship. It is believed the blockade was organized by the Orthodox priest from the nearby village of Dighomi, though he denies any involvement.

    In the past four years there have been over one hundred attacks by Orthodox mobs against religious minorities in Georgia. To date, no one has been prosecuted for the attacks. Pray for endurance and a firm resolve to stand strong in the Lord for those facing opposition. Pray that the authorities will take action against those who oppose freedom to worship outside of the dominant Orthodox Church.