Georgia: New report warns of worsening inter-faith tensions

A new report warns that tension between Georgia’s different religious communities are increasing.

Today’s Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM)’s report, reveals that “despite the general softening in the government approach towards issues pertaining to minority protection, there is a lingering perception among some officials and parts of society that national minorities constitute a potential security threat.”

The FCNM report’s focus on inter-religious dialogue pulls no punches. “Incidents of inter-faith tension have become more frequent in recent years and there is an increase in hate speech against religious and national minorities that is often not adequately addressed by law enforcement,” the report states.

“The very low number of completed investigations and criminal prosecutions of hate crime undermines trust in the police and the reported bias demonstrated in favour of the dominant religion (Georgian Orthodox Christianity) is increasingly resented by persons belonging to national and religious minorities.

“Overall, the public debate surrounding national and religious minorities remains tense. While inter-ethnic relations are marked generally by good cooperation and dialogue, including in the many ethnically-mixed villages, incidents of inter-faith tension and conflict have become more frequent in a number of regions.

“The Georgian Orthodox Church has further gained in influence in recent years and is not always promoting respect for diversity. Minority representatives feel offended by the increasing notion of superiority of what constitutes a “proper Orthodox Georgian” that is reportedly taking hold of the public discourse and forms part of the rhetoric of a number of political players, including at highest level.

“The establishment of the State Agency for Religious Affairs was initially welcomed by civil society but criticism is growing. The working methods it has developed appear to foster the creation of a hierarchy among religious confessions, providing support and funding to only a few and cementing the dominance of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which is not conducive to the enjoyment by all citizens of the right to manifest their religious beliefs.

“Moreover, there are consistent reports of religious indoctrination of students within the public education system which must be effectively prevented to ensure respect for religious diversity from an early age on.”

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