State to fund four additional religious entities
By Messenger Staff
Thursday, January 30On January 27 Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced at the government session that apart from the main Christian Orthodox Church in Georgia, four more religious confessions will receive state support as compensation for the hardship they experienced during the Soviet period.
These include the Armenian Church in Georgia, the Islamic and Jewish religious entities, as well as the Catholic Church. This gesture represents Georgiaís stance on religious tolerance.
The Georgian patriarchate mainly supports this idea, although certain critical remarks have also been made.
4.5 million GEL from the government reserve fund will be allotted for this purpose. As the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Paata Zakareishvili said, this money will be distributed proportionally among these denominations, though the actual criteria have not yet been fully decided upon.
The idea of financing other churches apart from the Orthodox Church has been the subject of speculation for some time. The ombudsmanís office has already labeled the situation discriminative when only one church was being financed.
In 2002 the state in its constitutional treaty with the Orthodox Church acknowledged the facts of material and moral damage to the Christian Orthodox church caused by the Bolsheviks. Eventually the state partially compensated for this damage.
The Georgian Orthodox Church is the only religious entity that had been receiving state financial support during these years.
In 2014, the state budget allotted 25 million GEL for the Patriarchate. According to Transparency International Georgia, from 2002 to 2013 the patriarchate has received around 200 million GEL.
Representatives of the Georgian clergy denominations welcomed the idea financing other churches calling it a positive decision.
However, the ombudsmanís office protested the decision, suggesting that nobody should be left in a discriminative position. NGO Multi National Georgia welcomed the state decisions suggesting that the government should add more entities to the list as well, including the Evangelist Lutheran, and the Evangelistic Baptist Churches among others.
Former MP and human rights protector Dimitri Lortkipanidze thinks that this kind of financing of different churches should be a one time action. There are also certain voices, which consider enlargement of the religious institutionsí list receiving funding unacceptable.