The Georgian Orthodox Church said in a statement that developments in aftermath of removal of minaret from a mosque in the village of Chela in Adigeni municipality were incited by “certain forces”, which it does not specify, for the purpose of provoking confrontation between Muslim and Christian population of the country.
“Some statements made in connection to developments in the village of Chela in Adigeni municipality make us think that certain forces want to portray these events as an insult to religious feelings, infringement of Muslims rights and to incite such stance among ordinary followers of Islam,” the Georgian Patriarchate’s statement reads.
“We appeal to our flesh and blood, Muslim Georgians from the village of Chela and to Georgian and non-Georgian Muslims from other villages and towns: We are all children of Georgia, where even during those times when many centuries ago our nation had to tackle invasions of various Muslim countries, Muslims living in Georgia were not oppressed.”
“What is now happening is an attempt to incite religious strife – somewhat similar to those processes that was tried to be developed in [the villages of] Nigvziani, Tsintskaro and Samtatskaro,” it says.
Since November, 2012 there have been several cases in three villages with mixed Muslim and Christian population when local Christian community confronted Muslims and barred them to perform prayer in houses converted into mosques. Such incidents occurred in Nigvziani in western Georgian region of Guria, Tsintskaro in Kvemo Kartli region and Samtatskaro in Kakheti region. Unlike those cases, no conflict between local Muslim and Christian residents of Chela was reported. Formally the reason for removal of the minaret was a decision by the Revenue Service at the Finance Ministry, which said that the minaret was removed for the purpose of its inspection to verify if the metal construction materials, used for building of the minaret, were properly declared when cargo was imported into Georgia from Turkey on July 14.
The Georgian Patriarchate said in the statement that the goal of “this force is to confront Christian and Muslim population and by doing so to discredit [the Georgian Orthodox] Church and the State and to carry out its own goals against the background of this situation.”
“It is impossible not to see it for those who follow these developments,” the statement reads.
“We request the Muslim leaders in Georgia to oppose provocative actions both in Adigeni and in other parts of Georgia and not to contribute to it,” the Patriarchate said.
Protesters in Akhaltsikhe, who were rallying outside the local police headquarters after the minaret was forcibly removed on August 26, agreed to disperse on August 27 after a Muslim cleric from Khulo in Adjara arrived and called on them to stop street protest and after all those villagers who were arrested during the removal of the minaret were released.
Addressing to Muslim clerics in Georgia, the statement by the Patriarchate also reads: “Today it depends on you what will be the position of your perish towards protecting the law, the state interests and of course religious feelings.”
“On our part, we have always been trying and will continue to spare no effort to strengthen those good attitudes that we have towards Muslim religious leaders and population in Georgia, as well as towards our neighboring Muslim countries and their spiritual leaders.”
“We think that one of the prerequisites for that is to promptly establish real reasons behind these events and to identify those who have committed illegal acts and those who are interested in fueling tensions. At the same time a relevant legislative base should be created in order for everyone to know limit to their actions to prevent escalation on religious grounds,” reads the statement of the Patriarchate.