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New ID cards stir controversy

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, July 9
New electronic ID cards do not represent “the seal of the Antichrist,” Holy Synod declared at the session on July 5. Talk of the ID card has caused great public controversy.

The idea of the electronic card has been widely discouraged by both civil and clerical groups since the idea was introduced by the Ministry of Justice a year ago. ID cards allowing the identification of a person via the Internet via legally valid digital signature provide a variety of services and functions. The government says the new ID cards would thus simplify many everyday services regular citizens.

Georgia is the third country to use the high-tech ID cards after Belgium and Italy. But at a protest rally on July 5, Avtandil Undiadze, from the Orthodox Union, said people should have an option to have either the new or old version of the card. Dimitri Lortkipanidze, member of the Parliamentary Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, said the unique identification number each person gets from birth, is enough for carrying out civil rights.

At the same session the Holy Synod discouraged the involvement of clerics in the political rallies, calling the church “a unifying force in the country” which encompasses members with diverse political views.”

Theologian, Levan Abashidze, also suggested that the church and politics should be separated. He said the clerics should not openly express their “political bias.” Abashidze supposedly referred to the presence of the Metropolitan of Urbnisi and Ruisi Iobi at Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream campaign rally in Mtskheta. But the archimandrite Stephane explained it was just an expression of solidarity towards Ivanishvili – “a person who has exhibited much kindness to the Georgian church.”

“I also believe the church should be independent; it should not be engaged in politics,” Bidzina Ivanishvili said, although he did not associate the clerics presence at any rally with politics.

The Holy Synod also referred to Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian relations. “Abkhazians and Ossetians often express the view that the separation from Georgia has created a danger to their existence,” is said in a statement. Stressing that everything must be done to restore Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian relations, the Synod members emphasized that “this union is a guarantee of their identity preservation.”