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Commemorating Tolerance

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, November 17
Giorgi Tugushi, Public Defender of Georgia and Jamie McGoldrick, Head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Georgia, commemorated the International Day of Tolerance at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel on November 16. Speaking about religious and national minorities, the Public Defender outlined the achievements and challenges in the area of tolerance in our country. According to Tugushi, the observance of the Tolerance Day on 16 November has become a tradition in Georgia through the efforts of the Public Defender’s Office and the assistance of UNDP.

The Tolerance Centre at the Public Defender with its Councils of Religions and National Minorities encourages dialogue on the pressing issues which are further reflected in the Public Defender’s annual reports. “There have been positive steps made towards both religious and national minorities but they should be more engaged in public and political life. National minorities are still facing problems in education – quality of Georgian lessons and badly translated books remain an issue,” Tugushi told the media adding that religious minorities have problems with registering the incidents and investigations of cases of attacks on people. “The positive development is that several religious organisations managed to officially establish their offices in Tbilisi and Batumi and the construction of a mosque in Talaveri has been resumed,” he went on to say.

Talking of the importance of tolerance within a century of violence Jamie McGoldrick spoke of the great opportunity of showing respect for religious and national diversity. “The support of human rights of all individuals from the two relevant councils aimed at protecting minority groups in the framework of human rights and tolerance is very important for the commonwealth of democracy. The project we have supported is oriented on justice, education and tolerance. I think this project will be important for social contacts, social actions for minorities. Progress has been made here in Georgia with the great cultural diversity and more will be achieved in the future,” McGoldrick told The Messenger.

Religious and national minorities, international organisations, public and political figures, NGOs and media had gathered to discuss the problems and challenges of cultural diversities in Georgian society. Journalists working on minorities’ issues are presented annually with awards for their merit in promoting tolerance among the people. Encouraging his colleagues to take on the challenges they face in life, Levan Sutidze from Tabula received the first prize of the media contest “Tolerance and Diversity” for the article on Moslem Georgians.

The Councils of Religious and National Minorities traditionally award organisations, individuals and media outlets for their distinguished achievements in promoting tolerance in Georgia. Gogi Gvakharia, cinema expert, writer, reporter, along with Ilia State University and Liberali and Tabula magazines were awarded by the Council of Religions while Emil Adelkhanov - human rights activist, United Nations Association of Georgia and Georgian Public Broadcaster’s talk-show “Our Courtyard” were nominated by the Council of National Minorities.

Mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava highlighted the necessity for the Government to protect the rights of cultural diversities and stressed the responsibilities of being the Mayor of multi-ethnic Tbilisi. “If anyone thinks that tolerance in our country has been used to attract the attention of the international community, they are absolutely wrong. This process is only connected to the welfare of individuals. As one of the citizens of Tbilisi I want to remind you that a different person means a different opinion. It doesn’t matter whether the particular idea will be considered or not – you should express your concerns and try to find consensus,” Ugulava told the audience.