Archive for the ‘Georgia’ category

Georgia passes new freedom of religion legislation

July 9, 2011

On the 5th July 2011 the Georgian Parliament passed into law new legislation that ensures the religious freedoms of ‘religious groups recognized as religious organizations in member States of the Council of Europe or having close historic ties with Georgia.’

Initial drafts limited the freedoms to just five groups, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Evangelical Baptist church of Georgia, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jewish and Muslim communities of Georgia, in addition to the special status still accorded the Orthodox Church of Georgia. The Baptist Archbishop in Georgia, Malkhaz Songulashvili, reports that following the release of the first draft, Bishop Rusudan Gotziridze (Baptist), lobbied the parliament and requested that the legislation should be extended to all religious groups in Georgia. The draft was subsequently amended to meet this request. A press release from the Embassy of Georgia in London specifically refers to Evangelicals being granted the same freedoms.

According to the Embassy’s press release, lawmaker, Nugzar Tsiklauri, said ‘Georgia is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country and every citizen of this country, regardless of what religion he belongs to, must have equal rights.’

Previously it has only been possible for the majority of religious organisations to register as a non-profit association. The new legislation now allows for registration as a religious association although the lawmakers have been careful to allow religious organisations to decide whether they want to continue as a non-profit association or register as a religious association. The legislation is designed to ensure maximum flexibility for such organisations.

A copy of the press release can be downloaded here.

Evangelical Armenians in Georgia

March 29, 2011

Evangelical Armenians, resident in Georgia, have been actively involved in mission among other Armenians since the mid 1800s. Whilst protestant mission in Armenia was largely conducted without the presence of western missionaries, mission among Armenian residents in Georgia was carried out by European missionaries from Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Early Swedish missionaries established a base in  Pyatigorsk and German Lutherans were effective in spreading protestantism in Tblisi and elsewhere in the Caucasus.

Independent evangelical churches were encouraged to form alliances under the wings of the American and British and Foreign Bible Societies and from 1870 onwards the American Mission Boards began offering support to evangelical Armenian communities in the transcaucasus region. Following initial growth and consoidation, the latter half of the 1880s saw opposition grow to the fledgling movement and leaders, including Vasili Pavlov, Nikita Voronin and Abraham Amirkhanyan, were arrested. Undeterred, Amirkhanyan and others, after release, continued to lead the protestant communities up until the 1920s.

Armenian Baptists and Armenian Lutherans were officially recognised by the Russian Government between 1914-1918. In 1926 the Armenian Evangelical Church was also recognised. Many of these communities combined to engage in missionary work among Armenians in Eastern Armenia, and established orphanages during the 1910s.

The Armenian Evangelicals work independently but they are included in the Evangelical union of Christian Baptists of Georgia, which has more than 5,000 members and is itself a member Union of the European Baptist Federation.

Today on the territory of Georgia there are six Armenian Evangelical organizations, five Armenian Evangelical churches (Tbilisi, Kumurdo, Sulda, Akhalkalaki, and Sukhumi), and one Armenian Evangelical brotherhood (established in Akhaltsikhe in 1993). There are about 60 Armenian Evangelicals living in Abkhazia. Since opening its office in Armenia in 1991, the Armenian Evangelical Association of America (AEAA) has been rendering assistance to the Armenian Evangelicals in Tbilisi and Sukhumi, particularly in the educational, cultural, social and organizational spheres.

For further information you can follow our link to the NORAVANK website to view the original article from which this summary is extracted.


Sufi & Wahhibi tensions surface in Georgia

August 27, 2010

Transitions Online reports on a growing generation gap between older followers of Sufism and younger, Saudi-educated, Muslims who espouse a form of Islam often refered to as Wahhibism and which is based on Sunni Islam, similar to that in Saudi Arabia.  Sufiism is a mystic form of Islam popular among the small ethnic groups of Kists that originate in the north Caucasus. The Kist communities are located in the Pankesi Gorge in the north of Georgia.

Tensions surfaced three months ago with the construction of a new mosque by the Jamaat congregation on the site of an earlier Sufi shrine. Speaking for the Jamaat congregation, Amur Khangoshvili, a 28-year-old imam in Duisi, told TOL, ‘We are against any recently emerged practices in Islam that the Prophet Muhammad didn’t mention.’

Eka Chianava, a journalist working for Liberali, visited the village of Duisi in October of 2008 and reported in her Catword blog that although the youth were turning away from the traditional Sufi form of Islam, there nevertheless appeared to be little tension at that time between the two Islamic groups.

The dominant presence of the new mosque and the dwindling size of the existing Sufi congregation in Duis, a little over 50, suggests that the ‘purist’ form of Islam espoused by the Jamaat congregation is the more likely to survive in the immediate future in this corner of Georgia. Similar tensions between ‘traditional’ and ‘Wahhibi’ forms of Islam exist  among the Islamic populations of the Balkan countries.