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Patriarchate comments on Holy Crap

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, May 17
The Georgian Patriarchate released a special statement concerning the latest events sparked by Erekle Deisadze’s book on May 15. It said that a struggle against national values and the Georgian Orthodox Church has been going on for several years and the launch of the scandalous “book” was the first phase of the plan which was fulfilled by the confrontation at Kavkasia TV.

“There is almost no public discussion of the main reason for this confrontation as all attention has been drawn to the incident at Kavkasia TV. The reason for the confrontation was the moral-psychological violence caused by printing this book,” said the statement, highlighting that the Georgian Church can never encourage violence by any side. “The Church is a symbol of mutual understanding, unity and peace which rejects immoralty, indecency, licentiousness and satanistic propaganda,” it added.

The Georgian Patriarchate expressed its respect for democratic values but stressed that freedom has its limits. “The right to free expression ends where others rights are being violated. That’s why in almost all European countries both the right of expression and people's dignity are equally protected. Freedom of speech doesn’t allow anyone to provoke confrontation, assault the Church and religious feelings or abuse national symbols,” the statement said.

The Georgian Patriarchate suggested that the publication of the controversial book was an attempt to provoke the faithful and diminish the Church’s authority. Deisadze was a tool and the launch of his book bait. That’s why the Patriarchate hesitated to participate in the debates and encouraged the public to follow this example, it said. “Today we are obliged to warn the Government and the public about the upcoming danger. This book has damaged the situation in our country as the religious feelings of the absolute majority have been insulted. There are no guarantees that either internal or foreign enemies will use this situation, and someone like Desadze, to violate the religious feelings of Christians or any other believers in order to provoke civil confrontation, with incorrigible results,” said the Patriarchate, asking the Government of Georgia to objectively assess the present situation and adopt a law protecting the public from indecency, defending their dignity and unity and ensuring the peace and welfare of the country, as no court can compensate anyone for moral damage.

“Don’t be scared of anything! Evil can’t be conquered with evil, but love and kindness,” His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia the Second told the faithful after the Sunday liturgy at the Holy Trinity Cathedral on May 16. “I’m so happy to see so many young faces in the churches. This is a strong generation, and anyone treating the Georgian nation with animosity and aiming to influence the young with it will fail,” said Ilia the Second, suggesting that all school staff bake a cake for their pupils and teach them how to love their motherland so that they become full members of Georgian society with the appropriate approach to life.

The book written by 20 year-old Erekle Deisadze, whose title can be best translated as "Holy Crap", though it is a play on the Georgian term for the Last Supper, has created serious confrontation between different social groups in Tbilisi. The Union of Orthodox Parents has demanded the resignation of Ilia Chavchavadze State University's Rector, Gigi Tevzadze, who they claim is promoting anti-Orthodox ideology by allowing the book to be launched in the university building. The book’s supporters have protested against this demand, brandishing the slogans “Freedom of Speech” and “No to Fascism”. The Georgian Patriarchate has until now remained neutral during this conflict but has highlighted that no Orthodox organisation has ever been established on the initiative of the Patriarchate and appealed to all political parties to avoid misusing the Patriarch's and Church's authority for their own purposes, as the Church is the one of the most important means of uniting the nation.

The Freedom Party, lead by Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, welcomed the statement released by the Georgian Patriarchate and expressed its readiness to prepare a legislative initiative to protect people from the abuse of their religion. “Any kind of violation by any side is inadmissible for us, but no one has the right to assault the religious feelings of the Georgian people. The last few days' events are part of a campaign launched against the Patriarch of Georgia and Orthodox Christianity which should be suppressed in order to prevent any further confrontation within civil society,” Gamsakhurdia stated, stressing that he plans to meet the Patriarchate to discuss the initiative which he will introduce to Parliament.

Lasha Tordia, the First Deputy Chairman of the Legal Issues Committee of Parliament, has told The Messenger: “I don’t actually want to make comment about this foolishness, which has caused so much fuss, but what is clear is that creating this fuss is how the author of the book has tried to promote himself. I think everyone should definitely have freedom of expression but I do not share Deisadze’s approach and will not read his book.” Tordia explained that there may be many such authors who want to become popular and a mechanism to protect the public should by all means be elaborated but without any violence.

“A number of books are printed and presented to the public in other institutions. This book became the subject of discussion between students at Ilia Chavchavadze State University but there was no official launch of the book, so neither the State nor the university administration had any connection with its publication. We should always approach such issues with care and both avoid insulting other’s opinions and defend their freedom of thought within the framework of democratic values.The Parliament of Georgia is actively cooperating with the Georgian Patriarchate. Its approach is very important for us and the preventive mechanisms [protecting the public from indecency] will be elaborated through joint consultations,” Tordia concluded.